BY TYLER SMITH, SPORTS DIRECTOR.
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies are on a roll! After yet another scheduling misfortune with Davidson going on pause for COVID-19-related issues, the Bonnies were lucky enough (for once) to find an opponent to fill that void on short notice. Luck was not on the side of George Mason, however, once the game tipped off. St. Bonaventure defeated George Mason 84-67 to win their seventh straight contest (and fifth straight against the Patriots). Here are five things we saw from Saturday afternoon and five things we can take from it moving forward:
What we saw:
Multiple guys can be “the man”
- Dom Welch sent out a tweet on January 16 that read “Bona Nation, Ima bounce back mark my words!!!!” This came after a three-game stretch that saw Welch average 4.3 points per game, even registering a scoreless outing against Duquesne. But, Welch also had a certain hashtag after his “bounce-back” proclamation: #BigDubsOnly. See, after reading that tweet, if you didn’t watch those three games where Welch struggled, you’d think his efforts contributed to losses. The Bonnies were still 3-0 during that stretch and had two different leading scorers not named Dom Welch (Holmes 2x, Lofton). Welch actually became the fourth Bonnie this season to have a 20-point game. The vast majority of college programs can’t say they have four guys who can go for 20 on any given night. And, the budding chemistry mentioned by Jalen Adaway just last week tells me that the guys on this roster don’t really care who comes out on top of the scoring column as long as the W’s continue.
Osun Osunniyi had his best game so far this season
- Osun Osunniyi began the season with a career-high 25-point performance against Akron. He followed that outing with a 14-point effort in a win over Hofstra but has not eclipsed double digits since that December 19 meeting. Today, Osunniyi totaled his second-most points in a game this season with 18, while adding 15 boards for his second double-double of the season (13th in career). This was all in less than 30 minutes of play. Diving deeper into the box score, Osunniyi had his best field goal percentage of the season (72.7%). It has been an abnormal year in college basketball, and an abnormal year for Osunniyi’s field goal percentage, dipping below 50% for the first time in his career. It has to be motivating for him as well as the rest of the team to see the ball go through the net at a high clip. Finally, my favorite stat in basketball, Plus/Minus, was another season high for Osunniyi as the team was +26 with him on the floor. A true all-around performance from the man in the middle was exactly what the Bonnies needed for a complete game.
What we learned:
The Bonnies are George Mason’s Kryptonite
- Like I previously mentioned, this is the fifth straight win against the Patriots for St. Bonaventure. The win also gives Mark Schmidt his tenth victory over GMU during his St. Bonaventure tenure, moving his record against the Patriots to 10-1. And yes, a win is a win and you move forward to the next game on the schedule, but in the case of Mark Schmidt’s victories over George Mason, the margins have been decisive. On average, the Bonnies have defeated the Patriots by 14.9 points per contest. I’m not sure about you, but I wouldn’t mind another A10 quarterfinal matchup against the Patriots come March.
The starting five is dominant, but sustainability can create concerns
- For every game this season but one (at Duquesne), Mark Schmidt has used the starting lineup of Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch, Jaren Holmes, Jalen Adaway, and Osun Osunniyi. These are all guys who, in my opinion, are capable of playing 40 minutes a game. Kyle Lofton already proved that to be correct for himself as the nation’s leader in minutes per game last season. However, as we saw in 2018, a shallow rotation can lead to downfall in March. Regardless of talent, the Bonnies were slated to have three games in four days (after a physical A10 Tournament) if they had beaten Florida. Only six or seven players received double-digit minutes in those postseason games. We only play six or seven guys in this regular season. Now, obviously there are no guarantees, but I believe St. Bonaventure is an NCAA Tournament team. The rotations we have now are not broken, so there is no need for worry yet. However, that 2018 Bonnies squad was rolling just as this one is until the schedule tightened up and our top guys were playing 100 minutes of basketball in a week.
Bonus: Coach Schmidt still uses a flip phone
- There’s always talk about which coaches around the NFL or college football are “football guys.” These types of coaches really embody what football is all about—grit, determination, and a love for doing the dirty work. Mark Schmidt is the absolute equivalent on the hardwood. In the postgame interview, Schmidt mentioned he is “not a newspaper reader, or internet or any of that kind of stuff,” when asked about the program’s best start in 50 years. “As ‘Shoon’ knows, I still have my old phone,” said Schmidt. Coach Schmidt embodies what basketball is all about – execution, playing a tight game, and avoiding media narratives, good or bad. He is a true “basketball guy,” and St. Bonaventure has been so fortunate to have a leader like Schmidt at the helm for over a decade now.