TD Arena became Reilly Center South Thursday afternoon as a booze-filled band of Bonnies fans packed the seats for the opening game of the Charleston Classic.
No. 22 St. Bonaventure matched up with Boise St. in a 2 p.m. start, edging out a 67-61 victory to advance to the semifinals against Clemson. Kyle Lofton led the way with 17 points and seven assists. Fans of the Brown and White rejoiced – with caution – as Osun Osunniyi was able to log 35 minutes on the floor. The game was chaotic; it was nerve-wracking, but St. Bonaventure remain in the winner’s bracket. Here’s two things we saw, and two things we learned after the win over the Broncos.
What we saw:
The Dom Welch Experience
Dominick Welch is quite the basketball player. No, he’s not projected to be drafted, but he will certainly find a solid professional career in some capacity. Welch struggled offensively against a long Bronco team, shooting 4/12 from the field and 2/9 from three. A few of those misses were the product of bad shot selection. Although he wasn’t the most productive Bonnie on that end, a Mark-Schmidt defensive adjustment that defined Welch’s impact in the contest. Emmanuel Akot, a 6’8 forward, was lights-out for the majority of Thursday’s matchup. He scored 24 points on 8/16 shooting (6/9 3PT) and was a major reason Boise St. continued to go back and forth with Bonaventure’s offense.
“He’s a heck of a player; we couldn’t stop him,” Schmidt said of Akot.
After failing to rotate defensively while in a matchup-zone defense, Schmidt switched his team back into a man-to-man, putting Welch on Akot with about 10 minutes left in regulation.
Over those last 10 minutes, Akot was held to three points on 1/4 shooting. Schmidt noted the matchup change was made in order to “get length” on the longer Akot.
Welch played excellent on-ball defense in the second half specifically, but Schmidt was also quick to point out the impact he made offensively, even if it wasn’t his sharpest outing.
“He’s our shooter; he’s the guy that stretches the defense. He’s got a great stroke, and it’s all confidence. He had a couple early that he missed, but I really thought that he made some big shots in the second half,” Schmidt said.
The boards were crashed
Aside from Osun Osunniyi, no Bonaventure starter stands above 6’5. Osunniyi chipped in seven rebounds, about the minimum you’d expect to see from the big guy. The Bonnies won the rebound margin, 36-34, but doing it against a team with four players who stand 6’7 or taller is a testament to the hustle of the Bonnies’ swingmen.
- Jalen Adaway, 6’5: 5 rebounds
- Dominick Welch, 6’5: 7 rebounds
- Jaren Holmes, 6’4: 10 rebounds
Possessions are critical, especially when the Bonnies go cold shooting. With the Bonnies’ lack of height, it is imperative that these guys continue to crash the boards.
What we learned:
Shooting must improve
There isn’t much advice to be given here. If the Bonnies want to be recognized among the nation’s top teams, they have to make jumpshots. Shooting 4/17 from three-point range against Clemson – or any team for the rest of the Charleston Classic – will not cut it. This shooting performance makes the season total on three-pointers 10/46, good for a 21.7% clip.
Defense can take a team far but being one-dimensional isn’t a recipe for the deep NCAA tournament run that continues to be predicted by pundits around sports media. These players have shown their ability to knock down the triple, but early this season has not been a good blueprint for the 27 regular-season games that follow.
This team goes as Kyle Lofton does
The nation’s “ironman” in 2019-20, Kyle Lofton played all 40 minutes of Thursday’s game. Schmidt likes to call Lofton the team’s quarterback, the Tom Brady of St. Bonaventure basketball. While he hasn’t reached G.O.A.T. status, the leadership Lofton has displayed over his four years has been instrumental in building the program a national ranking.
Lofton led the team in scoring for the third straight game to start the season, but his 17 assists through those three games has made a huge impact for a team that’s struggled shooting. He finds the open man as soon as he finds a gap in the defense, acting as a true point guard. When possessions become sloppy and offensive sets don’t work, the four other guys on the court make sure the ball returns to Lofton’s hands. Not a lot of players earn that type of respect, but Lofton has, which has earned him preseason awards and watch lists that are now warranted if there was any prior hesitation.
Bonus: People just can’t pronounce Osunniyi
“OH-SHOON-ee-YEE,” is the correct pronunciation if any broadcasters or analysts need a refresher. The only person I have heard pronounce the name correctly: the great Ian Eagle, who announced the play-by-play of Osunniyi and St. Bonaventure’s two Atlantic 10 Championship appearances.
It appears a new pronunciation is created with each nationally televised broadcast. “OH-shu-KNEE-KNEE, OH-SHOON-EE,” are just two variations that I’ve heard while listening to broadcasts on ESPN2, as well as the CBS and NBC sports networks. It honestly shouldn’t be that difficult, especially for sports broadcasters. Maybe it’s just those around Bonaventure, but a player on the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award watch list deserves to have his name pronounced correctly.