ST. BONAVENTURE, NY -- The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball season came to an end earlier than the team had hoped. Coaches looked disappointed, and players covered their faces with towels. St. Bonaventure’s (26-8) loss to Florida (21-12) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament left many thinking what if?
However, the Bonnies historic season is nothing for the team to hang their heads about.
In 1970, St. Bonaventure faced off against Villanova in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. A knee injury to St. Bonaventure’s star, Bob Lanier, would put the team's season in doubt. The short-benched Brown Indians would fall to the Jacksonville Dolphins in the Final Four, halting them from the opportunity to take on the UCLA Bruins in the National Championship.
For decades, fans and alumni wondered what would have happened had the Bonnies gotten the opportunity to take on UCLA. On Tuesday, the Bonnies finally had that opportunity to play against the UCLA Bruins in the NCAA Tournament.
St. Bonaventure defeated the UCLA Bruins 65-58 in the NCAA Tournament First Four in Dayton, Ohio. The win was also the Bonnies’ first in the tournament since 1970. After the game, head coach Mark Schmidt spoke about the historical importance of the victory.
“We hear the stories of 1970 and how disappointing it was that Lanier got hurt,” Schmidt said. “Everybody talks about if Lanier was healthy, they would have taken on UCLA. And this victory is for those guys.”
Although the victory didn’t give the Bonnies an NCAA championship ring, it certainly gave the community something to be proud of for years to come.
“I think legacies and tradition are really important,” Schmidt said. “And for our guys to be able to go out and play a great UCLA team and beat them, hopefully that helps the disappointment back in 1970.”
St. Bonaventure’s loss two days later was not the dream ending to the Bonnies’ record-breaking season that fans had hoped for. But hopefully, the team’s victory against UCLA helped heal deep-seated disappointment over the 1969-70 St. Bonaventure season.