Atlantic 10 Semis: Bonnies & Billikens Roll To Title Game

(The scene during St. Bonaventure-Rhode Island – Photo by Jason Schott)

In the Atlantic 10 Tournament semifinals on Saturday afternoon, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies rolled past the Rhode Island Rams, 68-51, to open the session, followed by the Saint Louis Billikens dominating the Davidson Wildcats, 67-44.

St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis will face off in the Championship Game on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All fans who purchase lower bowl tickets in the Brooklyn Fan Zone sections will receive a green A-10 Championship t-shirt, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Fan Zone tickets are only $25. Additionally, open seating and reserved tickets in the lower bowl.

To purchase tickets, go to www.barclayscenter.com/atlantic-10-men’s-basketball-championship-2019.

St. Bonaventure 68, Rhode Island 51:

The fourth-seeded Bonnies trailed #8 Rhode Island by 15 points, 29-14 late in the first half, but they closed it on a 13-0 run to pull within two at halftime.

That momentum continued into the second half, and the Bonnies played even with the Rams, and the score was tied at 41 with 12:24 left.

Eventually, St. Bonaventure took the lead, and a 14-0 run gave them a 64-46 lead with 3:20 remaining. They led by as many as 21, at 69-47, on a pair of Courtney Stockard free throws with 2:35 left.

St. Bonaventure outscored Rhode Island 41-22 in the second half, and shot 54.5 percent (12-22) from the field to the Rams’ 28 percent, or 7-25, from the field.

Stockard, the Bonnies’ leading scorer, had a tough day overall, as he had just 9 points on 1-11 shooting and 7-8 from the free throw line, with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.

Their other four starters stepped up, led by Kyle Lofton, who had 23 points on 7-15 from the field, including 2-4 on three-pointers, with 5 assists and a rebound. Dominick Welsh had 13 points (5-9 FG, 3-6 threes), with 9 rebounds and a steal. LaDarien Griffin also had 13 points (3-9 FG), with 6 rebounds. Osun Osunniyi had a double-double with 10 points (5-7 FG) and 11 rebounds, with 4 blocks and 2 assists.

St. Bonaventure’s LaDarien Griffin going down the left side of the lane for a layup. Photo by Jason Schott.

St. Bonaveture Head Coach Mark Schmidt said of the win, “We got off, and give Rhode Island credit. They came after us. For the first ten minutes, we didn’t play very well, and they had a lot to do with it.

“We were, you know, a little bit nervous. You know, down, I think 22-12, maybe 22-10, but give our guys credit. They persevered. They fought through it, just like it’s a microcosm of our year, as I said yesterday. We started 4-10, 0-1 in the league and things weren’t going well and we had a lot of adversity with injuries and so forth.

“The kids never felt bad. They never got down. They kept on working and that’s what we did today. You know, you’re down 24-12 or whatever it was, and things aren’t going well, and we’ve got a young team. It’s easy for them just to lay down and say it’s not our day. We found a way. The last five minutes of the first half were critical.

“We got some momentum, went into the locker room, talked about it. We needed to come out and make that first run and our guys answered. They played, and that’s a heck of a team. I think 5-0 in the last five games, and big, strong guys, and our guys met the challenge and really proud of the effort. Now we move on and hopefully we can play well tomorrow.”

Schmidt said of overcoming that tough start and their best scorer, Stockard, being kept in check, “You know, as I said it was a microcosm of our whole year. We’ve been down. We’ve struggled. You know, things weren’t looking good, but the kids, they believe.

“We have, you know, Courtney and LaDarien were terrible especially in the first half. Osun wasn’t much better. But they just — they rebounded. And I say it all the time, it’s a great lesson. You’re going to hit adversity in life, and things are not going to go your way all the time and you’ve got to figure out a way to get it done and that’s what we’ve done. We couldn’t have played better in the second half. We always emphasize: Defend, rebound take your other basketball and make your foul shots.

“You look at the second half, and we couldn’t have played better. We missed one foul shot the whole game, and going into the game, you know, Dowtin and Russell are really good players, and we needed — they were the knowns, we needed to do a good job on them. They shoot, you know, 8-for-27.

“You know, in Game 1, they annihilated us, you know, defensively. It was almost like the first ten, 12 minutes of this game was what happened in Game 1. But we’ve grown. The freshmen don’t play like freshmen. Kyle in my opinion was the best guy on the court. You know, the veteran guys, we win, we beat Rhode Island, a heck of a team by 17 and our best player goes 1-for-11. It says a lot about the other guys on our team.

“Osun didn’t play well in the first half. Comes up with a double-double and did a really good job on Langevine who has probably 40 pounds on him. We just fought, and I’m proud of our effort, and hopefully we can play well tomorrow.”

Rhode Island was led by Cyril Langevine, who had 15 points (5-10 FG) and 9 rebounds, just missing a double-double. Jeff Dowtin had 12 points (5-13 FG, 2-5 threes), with a rebound, an assist, and a steal.

Saint Louis 67, Davidson 44:

Saint Louis, the sixth-seed in this tournament stunned #2 Davidson, as they reeled off a 17-2 run to open up a 49-33 lead with 11 minutes left in the game, and they never looked back.

The Billikens’ stifling defense held the Wildcats to 25.9 percent shooting (15-58) for the game, while they shot at nearly double the percentage, 48.1, or 25-52, from the field.

Saint Louis was led by Javon Bess, who had 24 points on a superb 10-14 from the field, including 3-6 from the field, with 7 rebounds and an assist. Tramaine Isabell, Jr., had 19 points (6-15 FG, 3-8 threes), with 8 assists and 4 rebounds. D.J. Foreman had 9 points (3-5 FG) and 11 rebounds. Jordan Goodwin had 8 points (3-5 FG, 2-2 threes), 5 rebounds, and an assist. Hasahn French had 7 points (3-9 FG) and 10 rebounds.

Those five, all starters, accounted for their entire scoring output, and all but Foreman played 36+ minutes.

Davidson was led by Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who had 15 points on 4-10 from the field, including 3-7 on three-pointers, with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Luka Brajkovic had 12 points (5-9 FG) and 5 rebounds.

Saint Louis Head Coach Travis Ford said of the win, “Well, we got off to a really good start, very good start and I thought our energy was right. And you know, when you get — and you get a start like that, you know the other team as good as Davidson is, you know they are going to make a run back at you.

“They are a really, really good basketball team. The second half we come out and really were just locked in. Really locked in. Just made a lot of defensive plays that led to good offense.

“I thought it was — we’re usually not the, you know, complementing ourselves a lot of times on offense tonight and tonight, our offense was helping our defense a lot. But you know, I just thought we competed at a very high level, very high level. The guys stayed locked in. I don’t think they ever, you know, looked at the scoreboard and ever rested, and that’s out of respect for Davidson and how powerful they are.

“We knew we couldn’t relax at any point in time, but just a really good second half. Really about second half. Especially defensively.”

Davidson Head Coach and Long Island native Bob McKillop said, “Congratulations to Saint Louis. They played an outstanding game. They did everything they had to do offensively and defensively. They were outstanding in the way they broke our rhythm offensively with their changing defenses, and that’s a credit to Travis Ford and his staff.”

One key to the game was when Saint Louis switched to 1-3-1 zone defense, and Davidson had trouble adjusting to it. McKillop said of that, “Yeah, we were 27-20 I think and had gotten in transition and had gotten some stops, and they did switch to the 1-3-1, and I thought we got a couple of good looks, but they didn’t go down. And when they didn’t go down, the 1-3-1 becomes even more lethal because it’s a mental aspect, as well as the technical, physical aspect. But we allowed that mental, technical aspect to impact our defense.

“I thought our defense in the first 16 minutes was superb, was outstanding, our work on the glass and our, would defensively was superb. And then when we started missing the shots, we carried it down into the defensive end, and you know, you look at our numbers, even in the first 16 minutes, we got some superb shots and they made a block here and a block there, but we did get some really good shots.

“And as their defense started to play chaos with our mind, much like Pete Carroll’s offense plays chaos with the mind of an opponent, and they come down and they shoot quick shots and now Pete holes it, it’s sort of that in reverse, because that 1-3-1 — and you don’t see it very much, and as you prepare for a tournament, you knew — we knew it was going to — possibility for it coming.

“But we had not seen it all year, other than against them back in January, and when we’re preparing this week, you know, you’re preparing first of all for either Saint Joe’s or Duquesne, and then you’re preparing either for South Carolina or Dayton. So you’re trying to prepare for four teams, but you don’t get the number of repetitions against a 1-3-1 as you normally would get if it was a 2-3.”

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