Heartbreak. That’s what everyone who bleeds brown and white feels right now. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies matched up with the Saint Louis Billikens for the third time this season — and they fell. The careers of Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, Dominick Welch, Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway have (likely) come to a close.
The game came down to free throws in the final seconds, but as Mark Schmidt alluded to, the game is not decided by one possession. The Bonnies got outclassed Friday afternoon. Here are two things we saw and two things we learned in the gut-wrenching Atlantic 10 quarterfinal loss.
What we saw:
Osun Osunniyi got taken out of his comfort zone
“They were just pushing me out of position, just getting me out of my comfort zone,” Osunniyi said. “I wasn’t able to get to some of my spots and make the moves.”
In the first two matchups with the Billikens, Osun Osunniyi scored a combined 33 points on 15-18 shooting. In Friday’s contest, he could only amass six points on two field goal attempts. Saint Louis head coach Travis Ford had a terrific approach to the game. He elected for St. Bonaventure’s guards to beat his group.
Billiken center Francis Okoro pushed Osun off the block and made him uncomfortable on the offensive end for 37 minutes of play. Okoro tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds, shooting 5-7 from the field.
It’s tough to quantify the impact he made on Osunniyi throughout the game, but if you look at the play-by-play statistics, you will see Okoro did not allow a true shot attempt from Osunniyi until there was a little over two minutes remaining.
Just one of the man facets that contributed to the Billikens advancing to Saturday.
Heart, mind and soul-crushing free throws
I’ll keep this brief.
The Bonnies trailed for what felt like the entire game. When they made a first-half run, Saint Louis answered as soon as the score tied up.
After playing from behind the entire second half, St. Bonaventure was able to take a 56-55 lead with 1:24 remaining on an Osunniyi putback layup. On the following SLU possession, a missed jumper resulted in an Osunniyi rebound.
Billikens foul, but Osunniyi misses both at the stripe.
The Bonnies proceed to get three stops before retaining possession, but on that fourth try, Gibson Jimerson hit a fallaway jumper, which would end up being the final points scored.
The Bonnies had a messy final possession, but after a missed shot and a few taps around between opponents, Kyle Lofton’s double-clutch jumper resulted in a foul. It became the Bonnies’ four-year captain, the team’s best free-throw shooter, at the line to win it.
Both shots felt like they were on the rim for hours. Both shots missed. Utter shock engulfed Capital One Arena.
What we learned:
This could be the end of the Ironman Five
Four years ago, Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi committed to play basketball at St. Bonaventure University. The following offseason, Jaren Holmes and Jalen Adaway transferred into the program, and the “Ironman Five 2.0” was born.
That group won an Atlantic 10 title, made the big dance and gave the Bona faithful basketball to look forward to during their time together. Crushing to see it come to an end off of free throws, but appreciation for their careers and effort must be given.
“I think, just like, the countless hours we spent together on and off the court; you know, it’s been amazing,” Adaway said. “All these experiences and memories we’ve had to leave with, which is priceless in my eyes.”
The Bonnies could have one more tournament run, just not one they hoped for
St. Bonaventure finished with a 20-9 record after falling in the A10 quarterfinals, but the careers of these seniors may not be over just yet.
The National Invitation Tournament is a strong possibility for these players to have one last crack at sharing the court together. With a solid regular-season resume, it would not shock me for the Bonnies to have one last game in the Reilly Center, but not one anybody anticipated when the season began.
“If we had the opportunity to do that, I would think that we would take it,” Mark Schmidt said. “When I was an assistant at Xavier, we went to the NIT, and we went to the final four, played in Madison Square, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
While the NIT certainly isn’t something teams aim to arrive at once the season ends, the Ironman Five could still put together some quality wins — and perhaps take a trip to New York City when the time comes for an invite.