BY TYLER SMITH, SPORTS DIRECTOR.
“Refusing to lose,” is how Jalen Adaway described his second-half outburst. Well, Adaway and the Bonnies would not allow the thought of a loss to enter their minds for the majority of the game. The Bonnies trailed for just 27 seconds over the entire contest. St. Bonaventure defeated Saint Louis, 71-53, and have earned a spot in the Atlantic 10 Championship on March 14 at UD Arena. Even though they’ve been winning, the Bonnies played a complete game Saturday for the first time in recent memory. Here’s two things we saw and two things we learned from the semifinal win over the Billikens.
What we saw:
A block party:
“I think he had seven blocks. It felt like he had 17 blocks,” said Mark Schmidt on Osun Osunniyi’s volleyball-esque outing. Coach Schmidt was correct. Osunniyi totaled seven rejections on Saint Louis, with five coming in the game’s first 12 minutes. Any doubt about Osun Osunniyi’s ability to go toe-to-toe with Hasahn French has been eliminated after his effort today. Osunniyi did not duplicate the offensive explosion we saw vs. Duquesne, but that wasn’t his role Saturday night.
Like I’ve said so many times before, the players on St. Bonaventure have the ability to switch roles better than a Los Angeles improv group. Against the Billikens, Osunniyi was designated to the Bonnies SWAT team, and everyone watching was just wondering when the next rejection would be.
“The Jalen Adaway Show”:
There are too many aspects of this Bonnies’ team that receive a lack of respect. Put Jalen Adaway’s contributions at the top of the list. After dominating the Billikens in nearly every stat category heading into halftime, the Bonnies found themselves leading by just eight points. Adaway was clearly not a fan of that margin. He scored 13 points in the opening minutes of the second half in a variety of ways. Alley-oops, fadeaway jumpers, and contact layups were just some of the abilities that Adaway showcased to give the Bonnies a comfortable lead.
My favorite part about having Adaway on the roster is his modesty and unselfishness. When asked about the offensive explosion early in the second half, Adaway credited the trust and complimentary play of his teammates.
Not only was Jalen Adaway the catalyst of St. Bonaventure’s second-half offense this game, but he was active on the defensive end as well. When the Billikens attempted a final run to cut into the Bonnies’ lead, Adaway sent a Saint Louis corner three behind their bench. He must have felt lonely to be absent from Osunniyi’s party. In all seriousness, Adaway has scored in double figures in eight of the last nine matchups. Bona faithful can only hope that trend continues next Sunday, because when Adaway is clicking, this team becomes that much more dangerous.
What we learned:
No threes? No problem:
I mentioned after the quarterfinal vs. Duquesne that the Bonnies needed to shoot better from three to advance past the semifinal. Saturday, on three-pointers, they made less, shot worse and won the game by 18 points. There’s a reason why St. Bonaventure pays Mark Schmidt and not me. The Bonnies opened the game connecting on three of their first four three-point attempts but missed the remaining nine they took in the first half. The second half saw the Bonnies hit just two of 10 attempts from deep.
It turns out that if you play better defense, score more points in the paint, win the turnover battle and outrebound your opponent, three-pointers become obsolete. I can’t say enough about the all-around effort the entire club put in throughout the game. Whenever Saint Louis made a tough shot, the Bonnies would answer right back. Yes, three-pointers are exciting and helpful when they go down, but if St. Bonaventure can continue to win the other battles, then long-range shots won’t play a hand in the result of the war.
The Bonnies are goin’ dancing:
I was confident after Friday’s win over Duquesne. ESPN’s bracketologist Joe Lunardi shared that confidence that the Bonnies were shoe-ins for March Madness after one conference tournament win. Guess what? They won again. I can say with 99% certainty that the Bonnies will make the NCAA tournament after the win over St. Louis. I just don’t have a good track record with guarantees.
Interesting to note, whatever seed the Bonnies end up with in this week’s collection of mock brackets is likely where they will stay regardless of the A10 Championship’s result. The selection committee typically does not move a team off of a seed line with a conference championship win or loss, especially considering the game will finish just before the bracket is revealed. Last-second changes are not its thing.
The Bonnies woke up Saturday with a NET ranking of 28. They have one “bad” loss to Quad-3 Dayton the day after the tragic passing of the university’s president. Zero Quad-4 losses. Getting hot at the right time. This team is ready to show a national audience what they’re made of.
BONUS: Travis Ford is a supervillain:
Saint Louis head coach Travis Ford has never been one to give due credit to St. Bonaventure. After Jaylen Adams hit 10 three-pointers in a 44-point outing vs. the Billikens in 2018, Ford in the postgame presser basically shrugged off Adams’ performance as any other outing.
In today’s postgame zoom conference, Ford was not ready to admit the better team won.
“I think it’s an advantage they played here yesterday, but it is what it is,” said Ford.
He mentioned numerous times how Saint Louis played at Richmond’s Robins Center yesterday while the Bonnies got back-to-back games at the Siegel Center. Out of any excuses for an 18-point thrashing, that’s what you come up with? ESPN’s and St. Bonaventure alum Adrian Wojnarowski responded perfectly to hearing Ford’s comments on Twitter.
Woj also suggested that the Billikens should have tried harder to earn the top seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Good suggestion, but too bad the better team earned that seed and won this game.