DAVIDSON, NC — The Bonnies scored eight points in the final 10 minutes of play while Davidson kept making shots to stay in it. A once-14-point lead, Atlantic 10 Conference standings and NCAA Tournament hopes dangled like a thread about to be pulled off a piece of clothing.
The Wildcats tied it 51 with 2:29 remaining in the contest. St. Bonaventure needed to drum up, something, anything, to reclaim the lead. The guy who made that play hasn’t attempted many 3-point shots this season. In fact, he had attempted eight of them in all with just two makes to show for it. Jalen Adaway, wide open in the corner, made his third three on the season to give Bona a 56-53 lead. The game would end with that same score. But that shot is not what won it. Two gutsy defensive stands, both in the final minute, did.
With 52 seconds left, the conference’s most efficient 3-point shooter, Hyunjung Lee, came off a screen and had room to release the game-tying shot. Adaway scurried into position and blocked the attempt, which landed in the hands of center Osun Osunniyi.
The Bonnies could have put the game away with their ensuing offensive possession but didn’t. They gave this high-powered Wildcats offense another shot to tie it. In the scramble, Davidson’s Luka Brajkovic got a look from the corner. That shot too was blocked. Osunniyi got his hand on it, and the horn sounded seconds later.
Defense, again, won the Bonnies (12-3, 10-3) a crucial game. The exhausting effort places them into a tie for first place atop the conference with VCU as two regular season games remain. It also will prompt Bona fans to dream a little bit more about a chance at the big dance in March.
“We could have folded. We had a 14-point lead,” Schmidt said. “They tied it up, and we could’ve folded. But we kept on playing, and Jalen hit that big shot in the corner, and we got the stops when we needed to get stops. I have said it over and over. Offense is fickle. You never know. The staple has to be defense and rebounding, and that’s what we did tonight.”
Here are four observations from the Bonnies’ 56-53 victory at Davidson:
KELLAN GRADY, LEE SILENCED BY BONA AT LAST:
Kellan Grady is arguably the most talented and prolific scorer in the Atlantic 10. The league’s sixth-leading scorer has gotten quite used to torching the Bonnies over his impressive four-year career. So much so, even Schmidt didn’t expect his team to keep him quiet for a full 40 minutes.
But that’s exactly what happened. Grady couldn’t get a clean look against junior guard Kyle Lofton, who played the game to its entirety (40 minutes). The senior guard finished with two (2) points on 1-of-7 shooting and 0-of-5 from three. Grady has scored two points or less just two other games in his collegiate career, once as a freshman and another time as a sophomore.
Grady has scored at least 16 points in each of his previous seven games against the Bonnies. He’s scored 20 or more three times and posted a career-high 39 in February 2018 in a three-overtime loss at the Reilly Center.
Lee had just as much trouble. He scored nine points, six in the first half, on 3-of-8 shooting and 2-of-7 from deep.
The Wildcats’ second-leading scorer (240 points) also has become accustomed to playing his best games against Bona. The sophomore guard/forward scored 18 points in a loss to Bona on Sunday and 14 in a win last February at the Reilly Center, which induced a 3-of-6 showing from 3-point range.
“The kids really locked in,” Schmidt said. “He (Grady) didn’t get many open looks. Lee got a couple. But that was the difference. Offensively, we played well in the first half. In the second half, we struggled and missed a lot of shots. A lot of layups. But it didn’t affect our defense ... 53 points, that’s an unbelievable effort by our guys. A lot of times when the offense isn’t going, the defense may suffer. But our guys were really locked in defensively. That’s why we won.”
BONA FINDING ITS TOUCH FROM DEEP:
Three-point shooting has not been on the mark for the Bonnies for much of this season as they currently have the third fewest makes of any team in the conference. The last two games against Davidson, though, have been totally different stories.
The Bonnies made a season-high 11 3-pointers in 21 attempts in both contests this week (22-44, 52.3 percent in all). Dominick Welch spearheaded Wednesday’s 3-point barrage, sinking 5-of-9 from beyond the arch to reach 15 points. The junior guard made three straight 3-pointers in roughly a one-minute span in the middle of the first half.
Junior guard Jaren Holmes, who led the Bonnies with 16 points, drained 4-of-6 shots from deep after making five of them on Sunday in a team-leading 19-point effort. Kyle Lofton made the game’s inaugural 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the contest.
The most impactful one of them all, though, was Adaway’s lone 3-point make of the night. The red-shirt junior transfer from Miami of Ohio has seemingly been hesitant to pull the trigger from long range this season. He has had plenty of open looks but opts to drive to the lane much of the time instead.
Wide open in the corner, Adaway didn’t think twice. The nothing-but-net shot capped his 14-point night.
“He really struggled,” Schmidt said. “It just showed that he overcame that. We always talk about dealing with adversity. He dealt with it. He didn’t play very well offensively, but he hit a huge shot. He hit the winner. The game-winner.
“...When it really counted, he made the big shot for us.”
FAST BREAK DEFENSE:
Mark Schmidt talked about it enough ahead of both contests. Bona could not let the Wildcats get out in transition, which allows them to find open shooters. Davidson scored eight fast-break points in both games combined, four in each.
A WINNING PROGRAM:
Mark Schmidt’s incredible run with this program is something that many outside the Western New York region fail to appreciate. The Bonnies have won at least 10 conference games in each of the last seven seasons. That’s the longest active streak of any Atlantic 10 program.
“We have built a program and have had sustained success,” Schmidt said. “A lot of people can do it for one, two, three years. But to be able to do it for seven straight years, that says a lot about our players and our program. We’re doing it in a very competitive league. For us to be the only team that’s done that, it’s pretty amazing.”
A LOOK AHEAD:
The Bonnies face George Washington Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.
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