Bona, VCU prepare for A-10 final amidst eight-day layover

photo courtesy of Atlantic 10 conference

By Jeff Uveino & Noah Fleischman

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team played in the Atlantic 10 championship game, it was SBU’s third game in as many days.

This year, due to scheduling changes, the Bonnies must navigate an eight-day gap in between the tournament’s semifinals and final. How will that impact the team’s preparedness?

“We’ll see,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said.

The top-seeded Bonnies will play No. 2 VCU on Sunday at University of Dayton Arena. Despite an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and SBU’s second A-10 championship in program history on the line, it’s business as usual for Schmidt’s side leading up to the final.

“We go about it just like we usually do,” Schmidt said. “If we had a week off, and we have weeks off during the season with the bye week, we approach it like that. Give our guys a couple days off and don’t go crazy in practice and try to build so we’re at our peak on Sunday at 1 o’clock.”

After back-to-back wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis on Friday and Saturday to advance to the final, Schmidt said that his team took Sunday and Monday off. A light Tuesday practice preceded a Wednesday practice in which the Bonnies will “ramp it up” for the rest of the week, Schmidt said.

“We don’t want to win the practices, we want to win the game on Sunday,” Schmidt said. “You’ve got to be careful, it’s late in the season, you don’t go long with practice. You try to make sure we know what we’re going to do against VCU and how we’re going to guard them and so forth, but you be careful that you don’t wear our guys out.”

For VCU, the eight days in between the two games was the best case scenario. Head coach Mike Rhoades said his team spent Sunday, Monday and Tuesday rehabbing injuries in the training room with athletic trainer Dennis Williams. 

“I feel as though it can help us rejuvenate,” sophomore guard Bones Hyland said of the gap between the semifinal and championship.

The Rams were dealing with injuries during the A-10 tournament in Richmond, including Hyland returning from a foot sprain. Junior forward Vince Williams exited VCU’s quarterfinal game against No. 7 Dayton with back spasms, but played in the semifinal game against No. 4 Davidson. 

Rhoades said the team prepared for St. Bonaventure during the week, but they also remained focused on getting healthy. 

Each team seeks its second A-10 championship in school history, as VCU has amassed a 1-4 record in A-10 finals while SBU has gone 1-3.

The Bonnies and Rams are scheduled to tip-off at UD Arena at 1 p.m. Sunday in a game that will be broadcasted on CBS.

VCU gets revenge over St. Bonaventure; takes over A-10 lead at home

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

RICHMOND, VA —After a season-best offensive output against La Salle earlier in the week, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team was challenged in a physical rematch with a fellow NCAA Tournament hopeful on Friday.  

The Bonnies (10-3, 8-3 A-10) fell just a possession short to the VCU Rams (15-4, 8-2 A-10) in a 67-64 defeat at the Siegel Center on Friday.  

From the opening tip, Jalen Adaway was in rhythm offensively for SBU. Adaway scored Bona’s first nine points, as it grabbed a 9-4 lead with 13:31 remaining in the first half. He would go on to lead all scorers with 23 points and added eight rebounds to his stat line.   

The game went back and forth in the opening frame, and at the under-four minute timeout, the Bonnies and Rams were locked at 24. With 3:33 remaining in the first half, Na’Shon “Bones” Hyland hit a three-point jumper that began a 9-2 VCU run to secure a 33-26 halftime lead.  

“They’re a good defensive team,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said. “They deny stuff, they play physical, so we knew it was going to be a challenge.” 

Fouls plagued the Bona attack early, with second-leading scorer Jaren Holmes picking up his second foul less than four minutes into the game. St. Bonaventure committed 24 fouls in total, and all SBU starters finished with at least three fouls. 

The VCU momentum carried into the second half, and less than three minutes after the break, the VCU lead expanded to 43-31.  

“If the game was lost, the game was lost in the first four or five minutes of the second half,” Schmidt said. 

After falling behind, St. Bonaventure found success going inside to Osun Osunniyi. With 9:18 remaining, the Ram lead was cut to 53-51.  

Osunniyi finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, but fouled out with 3:10 remaining in the game. Dominick Welch accounted for 10 points and Kyle Lofton had eight points on only six shots.  

The Rams kept the Bonnies at a distance though, as Bonnies could not pull closer than a two-point deficit the rest of the game. With less than 10 seconds to play, a missed free throw by Vince Williams Jr gave the Bonnies a chance to send the game into overtime, but Welch missed a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer.  

“We had a shot to tie the game,” Schmidt said. “It’s a difficult place to play, but we were right there.” 

Despite the Bonnies shooting 44% from the field compared to 36% from the Rams, the havoc presented by VCU made a difference, as the Bonnies accounted for 15 turnovers compared to 11 from the Rams. The Rams nearly doubled SBU on the offensive glass as well, beating St. Bonaventure 19-10. 

“From an offensive standpoint, we shot a higher percentage,” Schmidt said. “They got more shots because of the offensive rebounding.” 

Second chance points proved critical in this close matchup, with the Rams scoring 16 to just 10 from the Bonnies. 

Hyland finished with a team high 22 points, while Williams Jr added 11 points for the Rams.  

With the loss, SBU fell out of first place and is now half-a-game back from the Rams, who now lead the A-10. Due to the disparity in games played among the top teams, St. Bonaventure sits in fourth place behind Davidson and UMass.  

“We gotta fix some stuff, but we were right there,” Schmidt said. “I was proud of the effort.” 

PREVIEW: First-place Bonnies prepare to host “powerhouse” VCU

photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu

By Anthony Goss

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – After a week that showcased its poise and experience, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has proven itself as a top-level team in the Atlantic 10.  

The Bonnies took care of business against Fordham last Wednesday and handled Duquesne on Friday. Now, tied atop the A-10 with UMass, there are murmurings of a possible tournament bid or a regular season championship for the Bonnies given their position in the standings.

Bona head coach Mark Schmidt knows the idea of any future achievements starts with his team winning its lone home game this week.  

“Home games are most important,” Schmidt said. “If you want to compete for a title, you gotta protect your home court.” 

The Bonnies will look to do just that against VCU on Wednesday. The Bonnies were originally slated for a rematch against Richmond in the Reilly Center on that day, but that game was postponed due to COVID-19 fears within the Spiders’ program, leaving SBU to face the Rams instead.  

VCU, coming in at 10-3, flexes one of the stingier defenses in college basketball. VCU is second in the nation in steals per game, averaging 11.5 on the season. Freshman guard Adrian Baldwin Jr and sophomore guard Na’Shon “Bones” Hyland sit at a tie for second in the conference with 2.2 steals per game, and sophomore guard Jimmy Clark III averages 1.9 steals per game.  

“If they steal the ball, live ball turnovers kill you against VCU,” Schmidt said. “So, we got to protect the ball.”  

The Rams rely on their defense to create offense on the other end of the court by speeding the game up and using live ball turnovers to generate fast break opportunities.  

“They do a good job of running and trapping and trying to speed you up,” Schmidt said. “That’s how they play, that gets them going on offense.” 

Offensively, the scoring load is carried by Hyland, who averages 18.1 points per game. Hyland, who has doubled his scoring average from last season, can finish in the paint and poses a lethal stroke from behind the three-point line. 

“You can see that the team has confidence in him,” Schmidt said. “He’s gonna be a handful for the next three years. He’s an exceptional player that seems like he enjoys playing and is getting better.” 

Other players have found their moments to contribute on offense, but junior forward Vince Williams Jr is the only other double-figure scorer for VCU, averaging 10.8 points per game. 

“Williams, I think, is an X-factor. When he plays well, they usually win,” Schmidt said. “He has it all.” 

In their lone matchup last season, the Rams trounced the Bonnies on their home floor 91-63. St. Bonaventure will look to turn around what has been a dominant stretch for the Rams when they face the Bonnies. VCU has only lost to St. Bonaventure twice since joining the A-10 in 2012.

“They got good players,” Schmidt said. “They are one of the powerhouses in our conference.” 

After their matchup against VCU, the Bonnies were set for another big game against No. 25 Saint Louis on Saturday, but the status of that game is in question, as the Billikens announced another positive COVID-19 was found in the program, and they will now need to pause basketball activities once again.

“No matter who you play in the Atlantic 10, it’s an important game,” Schmidt said.  

Wednesday’s game against the Rams should go as planned, however. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip-off from the Reilly Center, and will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.