Bonnies Bottom Line 11/14: Two Things We Saw and Learned vs. Canisius

What was to be thought of as Sunday-evening snooze fest quickly turned into one of the loudest Reilly Center atmospheres in recent memory. Little Three rival Canisius came to town and gave the Bonnies a dogfight. The Brown and White ended up pulling away late, winning 69-60 and finishing the first week of college hoops with a 2-0 record. It looks like No. 23 St. Bonaventure will survive another week in the AP Top 25. Here’s two things we saw and two things we learned from the win over Canisius.

What we saw:

“A terrible first half.”

“We played a terrible first half,” said head coach Mark Schmidt following the nine-point victory. He wasn’t wrong: the Bonnies committed 11 first-half turnovers and shot just 1-10 from three-point range. Canisius was also able to edge St. Bonaventure on the offensive boards with a 6-2 margin through the first 20 minutes. The home team looked sloppy.

Plain and simple: the Bonnies came out flat, and Canisius came into the Reilly Center with a win on its agenda. Luckily, the Reilly Center crowd shifted momentum in the direction of Bonaventure every time Canisius would miss a step in the second half. 

Schmidt compared the last ten minutes of the contest to a “sense of desperation.” In a sense there was. A potential quad-4 loss early in the season could have come back to haunt the Bonnies later. Bonaventure fans can take a deep breathe now that any chance of that was squashed in the final minutes of Sunday’s matchup.

Perhaps some credit for the late run can be given to Jaren Holmes and the Reilly Center crowd after this and-one:

Kyle Lofton went into attack-mode down the stretch

He was named onto the Cousy Award watch list for a reason. Kyle Lofton is one of the premier guards in the nation, and he proved it when it mattered most Sunday. Lofton had nine of his game-high 17 points in the final eight minutes of the game.

“I feel like I was aggressive the whole game; shot 15 shots. A lot of them didn’t fall, but I didn’t let that bother me,” Lofton said of his performance. “I was like ‘alright, one’s going to fall.’”

That one big shot did fall, as Lofton connected on his first three-pointer of the season, giving the Bonnies a 61-58 lead with four minutes to go.

Lofton shot 4/15 from the field vs. Canisius, still managing to have those 17 points. If he can do that, there’s no telling what an efficient shooting night might look like for Lofton this year.

What we learned:

Falling behind early is not an option anymore

Two games in, two wins over MAAC schools. You play who’s on your schedule in college basketball but make no mistake: the competition significantly increases in difficulty this Thursday in the Charleston Classic. Going down nine and 11 points to teams like Boise State and potentially Clemson will pose a much tougher comeback attempt than ones against Siena and Canisius.

Schmidt kept it simple in the postgame presser, saying “We have to get better.” He emphasized how important it was to get off to a good start, citing his team’s open shots that were missed early.

Those same shots are going to have to fall against tougher opponents this week if the Bonnies want any chance at coming home from Charleston with some hardware.

Osun Osunniyi’s health is the top priority

St. Bonaventure’s man in the middle, Osun Osunniyi, kept his early-season block party going early on vs. Canisius. Two rejections in the first two minutes had the Golden Griffins wanting to avoid the painted area at all costs. However, that inside presence would not be available for much of Sunday’s contest.

Offensively, Osunniyi was sloppy, missing a few inside hook shots, turning the ball and not being ready to receive some passes. Those three things could have caused Schmidt to send his defensive anchor to the bench for the final 2:32 of the first half.

However, Bonnies fans never saw Osunniyi leave that bench for the remainder of the game. In fact, Osunniyi could be seen wearing a back brace coming out of the halftime locker room. He had to be sat for much of Tuesday’s second half for the same reason.

While #21 was sitting on the sideline, the Golden Griffins were able to get much easier looks inside. Pittsburgh transfer Karim Coulibaly was able to attain some of Osunniyi’s block magic, tallying three in Osunniyi’s absence.

Regardless, the health of Osunniyi needs to be one of, if not the top priority heading to Charleston and beyond. The Bonnies are a much different team defensively with him off the floor, and more skilled teams will be able to exploit the defense if Osunniyi is unavailable.

Let’s hope Schmidt and Osunniyi are just keeping things cautious with this midseason tournament approaching. Schmidt did not have much to say about Osunniyi’s injury postgame, telling the media to “Go talk to the trainer.”

What we’ll see next

St. Bonaventure heads to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic this week. The tournament features high major programs such as Clemson, Ole Miss, West Virginia and Marquette. The Bonnies first matchup comes against Boise State, Thursday at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.

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