ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – The university’s men’s basketball team started the 2018-2019 season 1-5 and returned from the Cayman Islands looking to bounce back. The team did win three consecutive games to improve its record to 4-5, but then suffered an 18-point loss to nationally ranked University of Buffalo, leaving some students with questions about the ability of the team, while others keep the faith that the season is far from over.
The Bonnies finished the 2017-2018 season with 26-8 record and earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, selected into the First Four to play UCLA. They advanced with a 65-58 victory to play Florida, and their season came to an end with a 77-62 loss.
The start of this season has not shown the light last season had. An opening night loss to Bucknell, 88-85, a road loss to Niagara, 80-72, and a winless trip to the Cayman Islands, brought the Bonnies to 1-5 before a four-game home stand.
The Bonnies got back in the win column with double digit wins against Canisius, Delaware State and Siena, bringing them to their final game of the four-game home stand against the #17 nationally ranked University at Buffalo.
Buffalo took the lead early in the game and never looked back. The Bonnies were able to battle back in the second half but the game ended in favor of the Bulls, 80-62.
As students prepare for finals and head home for break, some are optimistic while others do not see the future of the season being bright.
“It’s disappointing to see the team struggle so much early but I think one thing we kind of have to realize is that it's a completely different team this year,” senior physics major Jimmy Kernan said. “I think it is going to be a mediocre season.”
“I will say I am a bit disappointed that we lost to Niagara again, and I do think the injuries we have now with LaDarien (Griffin) and previously with Courtney (Stockard) is our biggest hurdle right now,” cheerleader and junior business management major Mary Welch said. “I think that if we can have everybody healthy and if we are able to perform defensively at the level we need to perform at, we can be one of the top contenders in Atlantic 10.”
“The season thus far has been very underwhelming compared to previous years,” junior business marketing major Gavin Clancy said. “I honestly feel like they are going to stay with the same performance that they’ve shown through the beginning of the year.”
Freshman Kyle Loften is second on the team with 133 points behind junior transfer Jalen Poyser’s 148 points. Senior Nelson Kaputo is third on the team with 104 points. Stockard, also a senior, is fourth with 70 points after playing just four games this season due to injury. Freshman Osun Osunniyi rounds out the top five with 62 points.
Two players in the top five in scoring are freshmen. Since the loss of top-scoring senior guards Matt Mobley and Jaylen Adams, the Bonnies have relied on freshman guards and a transfer junior to run the offense as well as Kaputo. Inexperience has been a factor in the season not going as fans had hoped
“I think a lot (of this season) is a growing phase but I think a lot of it is because it’s not as good of a team as last year,” Kernan said. “I think once they start putting some of the pieces together and have LaDarien back, I think we can make a run.”
Welch said she has faith that the team will improve. “I know under Mark Schmidt they will have the right guidance to perform come tournament time,” she said.
“There might be some improvements from individual players,” Clancy said. “But mostly for this season I think it’s gonna stay the same, and I’m not sure how possible it is this season to get a tournament bid.”
Much of the season will be a learning experience for the four freshmen on the roster who play consistently, that also include Dominick Welch and Alpha Okoli. Time and experience will be the most beneficial part for the Bonnies to develop its team over the course of the season.
Although fans want to see win after win, this time of loss and struggle will help the Bonnies improve and be successful come conference play.
The Bonnies head to Vermont to take on the Catamounts in their next game on Dec. 18, sitting at 4-6.