ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Days after his team defeated Duquesne by a slim 65-61 margin on the road in late January, coach Mark Schmidt answered a question about one of his bench players, who had been called upon to fill some big shoes in the first half of that contest.
Star junior center Osun Osunniyi had picked up two fouls before the first media timeout. His backup, Jalen Shaw, had to play the final 16 minutes of the first half -- a career high for him with Bona. And he produced.
The transfer from Triton Community College in Illinois scored 7 points on 2-of-3 shooting and made 3-of-4 free-throws while pulling down three rebounds.
“Hopefully a game like that will give him some confidence that he can be successful at this level,” Schmidt said.
Clearly, that performance did give Shaw confidence. Thrust into almost the exact situation on Sunday in a crucial win over the Davidson Wildcats, Shaw produced a near-carbon copy of his Duquesne performance.
After Osunniyi picked up his second foul with 14:40 remaining in the first half, Shaw took the floor and played the next 11 minutes, scoring 5 points on 2-of-3 shooting and 1-2 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed three rebounds.
“He did some really good things for us in the first half when Osun got into foul trouble,” Schmidt said at his Tuesday press conference. “He rebounded his position, had a dunk and a put back and did a decent job defensively. I think a game like that against a highly talented team would give anybody confidence.”
Shaw has appeared in 13 of the Bonnies’ 14 games this season, mostly in limited action. He averages just over six minutes per game and rarely gets more than that unless, of course, Osunniyi has to sit on the bench for extended minutes.
Osunniyi has established himself as one of the most prolific players in the Atlantic 10 on both ends of the floor. He stands at an imposing 6-foot-10 and has a 7-foot-8 wingspan, two inches less than Mo Bamba, the longest player in the NBA. He blocks shots at will and ranked 21st nationally in that category last season. Offensively, he finishes strongly at the rim and his presence in the middle so often benefits the rest of the offense.
When he has to exit the game, that usually would be a cause for concern. But in two instances in which he has had to sit for extended minutes in the first half, Shaw has filled his shoes poised and prepared.
The numbers would show that Shaw’s production has been minimal. He has scored the fewest points (24) of any player who sees consistent action. Minimal and timely should not be confused, though.
“Hopefully, you know, he can play well tomorrow in the minutes that he gets (Wednesday at Davidson),” Schmidt said. “We need to have him come in there and be productive. And he was very productive for us in game one (Sunday).”
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