Second half defense pushes Bonnies past Fordham

BY TYLER SMITH, SPORTS DIRECTOR.

The Bonnies have been marred by various game cancellations throughout the beginning of the college basketball season, leading to extended breaks between contests. This day was no different, as health and safety measures caused George Washington to pause basketball activities.

The last time St. Bonaventure men’s basketball had this long of a break between games this season, rest became rust and the Bonnies fell to Rhode Island. Wednesday afternoon, the Bonnies would not be denied, defeating Fordham 68-54 down in the Bronx.

The game was destined to be tightly contested from the opening tip, with three lead changes in the first five minutes. Fordham opened the game ready to play, sinking seven threes in the first half to the Bonnies’ none. Guards Chris Austin and Jalen Cobb led the way in the first half with 10 and seven points, respectfully. St. Bonaventure’s Jaren Holmes, however, combined those marks for his first-half total of 17 points (7/11, 3/4 from three).

It has been Jaren Holmes’ world with everyone else living in it ever since his 38-point, 10-rebound explosion against St. Joe’s last week. The junior guard cooled off a bit in the second half but managed to finish the game with 26 points.

“It’s coming in the offense,” said head coach Mark Schmidt of Holmes’ scoring. “He’s not forcing things. He’s hitting open shots. I had no idea he had 20 (points) at halftime.”

Holmes took over much of the primary ball-handler duties as well when point guard Kyle Lofton sat out the final six minutes of the first half after receiving a technical foul. For reference, Kyle Lofton led the nation in minutes per game last season (38.4), so this was an abnormal decision for Mark Schmidt to make.

However, that decision proved to be an intelligent one. Lofton re-entered the game at the start of the second half, connecting on three straight field goals and becoming one of 45 Bonnies in history to surpass 1,000 points.

Other contributors included Jalen Adaway, who is quietly atop the nation in field goal percentage, with 14 points and nine boards. Osun Osunniyi didn’t explode off the scoring sheet Wednesday afternoon, but quietly grabbed seven rebounds as well as a career-high seven assists. Dom Welch also struggled offensively, but he was able to replicate one aspect of his game in Rose Hill Gym last season, pulling down 14 total rebounds (five offensive).

One aspect of the team that sticks out early on this season is versatility on both sides of the floor. Players like Dom Welch, who was labeled as a knock-down shooter coming in as a freshman, is able to grab 14 boards and affect the game elsewhere when the ball isn’t going through the net.

“Our guys have matured now. They understand how to win. (One player’s) not going to be the star of the team offensively every night,” said Schmidt. “They understand the importance of winning games, and how to win them.”

The remainder of the second half was a pretty standard series of events. Fordham kept the contest relatively close, feeding sophomore big Joel Soriano down low for what seemed like a plethora of easy buckets. However, in the closing minutes, the St. Bonaventure defense tightened up, and Fordham strayed away from what worked for them in the first half. Nine first half assists for the Rams translated to just five in the second. When Fordham hit their collection of threes in the first half, the fluid passing around the arc was the reason. Abandoning that, combined with stifling defense in the second half were the reasons the Rams could not keep up with the hungry and athletic Bonaventure bunch.

“I thought our guys really, especially at halftime, refocused and did a really good job defensively. We beat a tough team,” said Schmidt.

Following this victory, St. Bonaventure now sits atop the Atlantic 10 conference standings at 3-1, holding a tiebreaker over Richmond.

The Bonnies’ next matchup comes against Duquesne Friday night in the Reilly Center on ESPN2. Let’s try and make a new memory of the Bonnies being broadcasted on that network, because last time’s result (obviously) still rings loudly.

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