ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — Eight days ago, the Davidson Wildcats, in front of a sold-out Reilly Center crowd, literally shot the lights out of the arena on national television. The Wildcats defeated the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team 94-63 to the tune of a 55 percent shooting night. By the middle of the second half that night, most of a once colorful, prideful crowd had emptied the building.
For more than a week, the loss could have lingered on the Bonnies’ minds. But as sophomore guard Dominick Welch put it, “We had to move on.”
And the Bonnies, eight days after the 29-point loss, did just that. In a big way, in front of another capacity crowd, defeating the Richmond Spiders 75-71.
Before Saturday's game, the Spiders led the Bonnies by one game for third place in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
But after defeating Richmond (10-4 A10), the Bonnies (10-4 A10), 75-71, have a head-to-head tiebreaker for third place.
Saturday's victory did come with some drama.
The Bonnies led by more than 10 points at various points of the first and second halves. At the eight-minute mark in the second half, after Welch and red-shirt sophomore Bobby Planutis made 3-point shots, the Bonnies held their largest lead of the game at 16 points.
But as the Spiders did all game, they found a way to stick around.
Inside the game’s final two minutes, Planutis found himself at the center of the game’s most controversial call.
As two Spider defenders surrounded him, Planutis appeared to have elbowed one of the players.
To the Bona faithful’s dismay, the Spiders were awarded two free-throw shots and a possession and made the most of the opportunities.
Spiders’ guard Blake Francis, who scored a game-high 23 points, made two 3-point shots down the stretch. The Spiders found themselves within two points, 73-71, but the Bonnies never wavered.
Free-throws and togetherness, according to Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt, won his team the game.
As a team, the Bonnies made 16-21 of their free-throws. In the final 30 seconds, when the shots mattered most, the Bonnies went 6-6.
“Dom hit some; Jaren (English) hit some,” Schmidt said. “Those were big. That’s what you need to do to finish the game. You’ve got to make your foul shots. You try to put them in situations in practice to try to simulate, but it’s hard to simulate. It takes guys getting in the gym and having a lot of confidence. Mental toughness, and knocking them down.”
While it was the controversial flagrant call that made the end of the game tight, Schmidt applauded the Spiders’ resilience in fighting back to make the contest close.
“They are well-coached, and they have end-of-game situation plays," he said. "They hit big shots. It’s not like we weren’t there contesting them, but they have good players. Francis is one of the better guards in our league. He made some plays. Our guys didn’t fold. They stuck together.”
Offensively, four Bonnies scored in double-digits. English scored a game-high 17 points, while Welch scored 16. Sophomores Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi each had 13-point performances.
Schmidt said his team executed its game plan well.
“It’s up to the players," he said. "You try to put things in, and they have to make the plays. I thought Dom was terrific — 16 points, 12 rebounds. We had a good bounce-back game. We have a young team, and we didn’t play well the last time we were out. We have competitors. They answered the bell. They played hard. They played with energy.”
With four regular season games left for the Bonnies before the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship, the message, for Schmidt, remains business-like. A lot can happen in two weeks, especially as March looms.
For now, though, the Bonnies find themselves in a good position for a double-bye in Brooklyn.
“We still have four games left, “ Schmidt said. “Anything can change in four games. You see all the games that are being played. There are upsets, you know. We have to concentrate on ourselves. We have to do what we do.
“We had five games left starting today," he added. "Our goal was to go 5-0. We accomplished the first step. We can’t worry about what other teams are doing. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be fine. That’s what we are concentrating on.”
That next step for Schmidt and the Bonnies comes Wednesday. Duquesne, who the Bonnies defeated 83-80 on Feb. 8, comes to the Reilly Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The Bonnies have now won 10 or more games in Atlantic 10 play for six straight years.
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