BY NIC ROHLOFF.
NEW YORK, NY – Following three unexpected victories on the road against power five opponents, St. Bonaventure (23-10) fell to Xavier (22-13), 84-77, in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament in Madison Square Garden.
The Bonnies dug themselves a hole that was too steep to climb out of in the first half. Bonaventure shot 30 % from the field in the first 20 minutes and trailed 38-23 at the break.
Still, St. Bonaventure battled all the way back; Dominick Welch cut the lead to five with a three-pointer with five minutes to go.
“There was never any panic,” St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt said.
Welch finished with a career-high 25 points. The senior forward finished the game 7-of-10 from deep.
“This is pretty much a dream come true for me today, and just playing in MSG, really the mecca of basketball,” Welch said. “Run whatever Coach calls, you know, and just try to float the offense. The ball was coming to me, I was feeling good, and I was knocking shots down tonight.”
The Achilles heel for the Bonnies was on the glass. Xavier corralled 14 offensive rebounds and grabbed a total of 38 rebounds compared to the 28 for Bonaventure.
Jack Nunge led the charge for Xavier with a shared team-high of 18 points and eight rebounds, seven being offensive. The forward shot 7-of-9 from the field, converted his only three-point attempt.
Zach Freemantle and Adam Kunkel both tallied 18 points for the Musketeer’s.
“Kunkel hit some big shots. We got beat off the dribble a little bit. We didn’t cover Dwon a couple times, and Nunge got some put-backs,” said Schmidt.
Colby Jones added 16 more for Xavier. Nate Johnson totaled 10, and Dwon Odom finished with four points to wrap up the games scoring for the Musketeer’s.
Xavier shot 53.1% from the field on the game, 34.8% from three, and went 8-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Jaren Holmes and Kyle Lofton both ended with 15 points to surround Welch’s game high. Lofton finished with 11 assists, which marked the second time all season the senior had double-digit assists. Holmes shot 5-of-11 for the game and went 4-of-6 from the line.
Osun Osunniyi (12), Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (six) and Jalen Adaway (four) closed out the games scoring for St. Bonaventure.
The Bonnies ended the game with a 46.8 field goal percentage, 40.9% from beyond-the-arc, and went 10-of-13 from the free throw line.
As St. Bonaventure’s season comes to a close, all eyes will look upon the five seniors. The iron five 2.0 could use an extra year of eligibility, transfer to another university, or turn pro.
Xavier has advanced to the NIT finals, where it will play the winner of Washington State and Texas A&M on Thursday, March 31.