Bonnies Bottom Line 2/19: Two things we saw and learned vs. Duquesne

BY TYLER SMITH, SPORTS DIRECTOR

The term “never in doubt” can be used to describe Saturday’s outing of St. Bonaventure men’s basketball. After the Duquesne Dukes scored the game’s opening two points, the Bonnies sparked an 11-0 run — andnever looked back.

The Dukes took some really, really bad shots. The Bonnies continuously searched for the best shots, hence the team’s fifth-straight victory, throttling Keith Dambrot’s crew, 81-55.

Here’s two things we saw and two things we learned from Saturday’s wire-to-wire blowout.

What we saw: 

Osun Osunniyi and his vendetta against Duquesne

Prior to the game, I tweeted out a video of the Bonnies entering Bob Lanier Court and said “Expect a big game from Osun Osunniyi,” and it wasn’t because I just had a hunch.

No. 21 has dominated the Dukes for much of his four-year career. Osunniyi has averaged 13.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per matchup dating back to 2018, a stretch in which the Bonnies hold an 8-1 record. He has put up some ridiculous numbers that don’t align with the averages, too —a 22-rebound game in his first meeting, multiple double-doubles, perfect shooting games, the seven-block game in last season’s A10 tournament, just to name a few. 

“I don’t have any extra incentive,” Osunniyi said on matching up with Duquesne. “It’s just another basketball game.”

Regardless of intention, Osunniyi owns this team. He has consistently attacked the lack of size each Duquesne team has played with. It all culminated in Saturday’s effort: 18 points, 10 boards and two blocks. Didn’t miss a field goal attempt (7-7). Didn’t miss a free throw (4-4).

“I don’t have any extra incentive,” Osunniyi said on matching up with Duquesne. “It’s just another basketball game.”

Osunniyi became the fourth Bonnie starter to eclipse 1,000 points in his college career. He sits 10 rejections away from being the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots.

He called the scoring benchmark “a blessing,” while thanking his teammates for putting him in a position to make shots.

Mark Schmidt emptied the bench

Fans and media have questioned head coach Mark Schmidt’s reluctance toward looking deeper into his reserves in favor of leaving his starters on the floor for most of the season. Schmidt had no choice but to give some run to a few guys who have single-digit minute totals on the year when the Bonnies extended their lead to 36 late in the second half.

Slowly but surely, the Reilly Center crowd witnessed the likes of Justin Ndjock-Tadjore, Joryam Saizonou, Oluwasegun Durosinmi and fan-favorite walk-on Pedro Rossi step onto the floor for some garbage-time minutes. While they allowed a meaningless scoring run by the Dukes, they also added some entertainment to a game clearly in-hand late.

Ndjock-Tadjore scored his first division-I points at the free-throw line and even grabbed a clean-up offensive rebound into a two-handed dunk to pump up his teammates and those who stayed until the final buzzer.

“I told him I wanted a dunk on somebody,” Osunniyi said. “He gave me what I wanted, so I’m happy.”

Many, if not all these guys still have much work to be done before Schmidt gives them actual rotation minutes. It might have to wait until next season for these guys to play meaningful basketball, but the final three minutes of the game were a delightful surprise that gave some glimpses of what the program’s future might include.

What we learned:

The Bonnies have moved into fourth place in the Atlantic 10

Obviously, this was not an anticipated nugget of information I hoped to include in any “Bonnies Bottom Line” this year. Like most, I viewed the Atlantic 10 regular season as the Bonnies’ to lose.

The mid-season lull occurred for a group that has spent so much time together over the past four — and really the past two years together. During the heart of the pandemic, this team was essentially closeted off to just each other. As 23, 24-year old seniors, naturally some letdown spots would arise. 

Criticism from just about anyone who follows the team littered social media for weeks from the Virginia Tech game up until the beginning of this five-game winning streak. Can’t find much of that on Twitter anymore.

The Bonnies finally look to be locked in for the remainder of the season — a season that will most likely be the final one shared by the five starting seniors. As tournament season approaches, those five will need as much rest and time in between games as humanly possible. Everyone saw what happened when the 2018 squad had to play an A10 tournament, a First Four game and travel to Dallas for the Round of 64 all within a week. They ran out of gas.

This 2022 team cannot afford to waste time playing on Thursday of this year’s conference tournament. The Bonnies will likely need a second-straight Atlantic 10 title to extend their postseason and securing a top-four seed in Washington D.C. will be vital to that effort.

The Bonnies are in bettors’ good graces

This doesn’t necessarily have to do with what happened on the floor on Saturday, but the Bonnies — who began the season a putrid 4-14 against the spread, have covered all five numbers during this five-game winning streak.

One of the best teams in the nation to place wagers on in 2020-21 (15-4 ATS), St. Bonaventure found itself playing to the level of its opponents early on this year. While that is an acceptable thing to do against UConn or Davidson, lackluster performances against Canisius, Coppin St. and Loyola Maryland determined the team was not as good as advertised in the eyes of Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Recently, as the Bonnies have hit their stride, so have the bettors who believed in this team’s ability to take care of its competitors. A few scares including the missed put-back layup at the end of regulation against UMass could have snapped the Bonnies’ money-making run, but the ATS “wagon” of old has returned to glory, outperforming expectations down the stretch.

Note: Obviously, the team does not care about spreads, totals or anything gambling-related. I just thought this was a fun piece of info — and I couldn’t find much else to learn from what was nearly a 40-point game. Bonnies moneyline to the moon (21+ please gamble responsibly).

Bottom Line:

I declare this team “back” at this point. Four games left on the schedule. I believe the Bonnies have regained the same hunger seen last season. Keep winning and there will be no worries about a sweaty March Madness selection show.

“When we defend, and when we rebound, we can be pretty good,” Schmidt said.

Rhode Island comes to town Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., and the game will be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network.

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