RICHMOND, Va. — Road struggles? What road struggles? The St. Bonaventure Bonnies followed up their big win at VCU with another gutsy performance at the Robbins Center, where they beat the Richmond Spiders 66-to-62.
These young Bonnies have learned how to win on the road, as they have won two straight away from the Reilly Center.
“The kids are growing up,” said Mark Schmidt, the St. Bonaventure coach who led his team to its 12th win of the season. “Going on the road to Virginia Commonwealth and to Richmond, you hope that you can split. For us to go 2-0, that’s a credit to our guys and how they played.”
Wednesday’s victory over Richmond gives the Bonnies their sixth Atlantic 10 victory. Bona currently sits in 5th place in the standings with a conference record of 6-4.
Yann Farell, the fantastic freshman, led the way with 18 points for Bonaventure, while Chad Venning, the 6-foot-10 center, chipped in with 17 of his own.
Both players put the Bonnies on their backs in the second half.
With just under 12 minutes to play, Richmond seized control 40-to-39, marking the first time the Spiders held the lead since the game’s opening minute.
This Bonaventure team may have folded had this game been played in November. But with 23 games under their belts, the Bonnies dug their heels in and fought back, relying on their experience to not get frazzled in a frenetic environment.
After the Spiders went up by a point, Farell knocked down a mid-range jumper to give Bona the lead again.
On the ensuing possession, Farell, as the shot clock expired, drilled his third 3-pointer of the game from the left wing to put his Bonnies up by four, 44-to-40.
He's just a freshman, ladies and gentlemen.
— Bonnies Men's Basketball (@BonniesMBB) February 2, 2023
But the Spiders would never go quietly into the night, especially on their home floor in front of a raucous crowd.
Richmond turned around, scored a quick four points, and knotted the game again at 44.
No problem thought the Bonnies.
On the next possession, the captain, Daryl Banks III, executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Venning. The big man rolled off a screen beautifully and finished inside to give Bona a 46-to-44 lead with 7:35 to go.
Like a heavyweight boxing match, the Spiders delivered a counterpunch right back, but in the form of free throws from Matt Grace with 5:45 left on the clock. Grace’s two freebies knotted the game again, this time at 46.
Once again, these young Bonnies were not phased.
The next time down the court, Moses Flowers, Bonaventure’s other captain, drilled his third trey of the game to put Bona up, 49-to-46.
From there, Bona went on a game-changing 9-to-3 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes.
“We hit some big shots,” Schmidt said. “Farell hit some big shots. Flowers hit some shots. Venning had a couple of big ones inside. It was a good team victory.”
The Bonnies drained 8-of-16 from beyond the arc, while Richmond shot a tough 20.8% from 3-point range.
Bona’s 3-point perimeter defense, which now ranks eighth nationally per KenPom, stepped up again.
“Against Richmond, you can’t get beat in the backcourt,” Schmidt noted when discussing how his team would try and stop the Spiders. “[They love the] backdoor [cuts], then they hit [3-pointers]. We did a good job not allowing the backdoors. But they missed some shots. They shot 5-of-24 from deep, and they shoot 37% from three [on the season]. But those are the numbers that you want [defensively]. From a defensive and rebounding standpoint, we did what we needed to do. Teams will get some open shots, but when you make them work, the hope is that they miss those.”
The Bonnies out-rebounded the Spiders by three, 32-to-29.
Despite scoring just seven points, Banks III led St. Bonaventure with nine boards.
“We are not a one-man team. We have never been,” Schmidt said. “Banks III has had some good games, but other guys have stepped up when he has not played as well. Winning two games like this when Banks III has not played his best is a credit to our other players. Farell [stepped up]. Flowers is playing with a lot of confidence. Venning is doing what he needs to do inside. It was an excellent team victory for us.”
For the second time this season, Schmidt inserted Flowers into the starting lineup. This move paid off once again as the Dorchester, Massachusetts native finished with ten points.
He took the spot of freshman Barry Evans, who, despite not starting, played well in his 13 minutes of action.
“Evans came in and did a really good job on [Tyler] Burton in the second half,” Schmidt said when discussing his freshman. “Burton was getting downhill early in the second half, and we tried to put some length on him. Being a freshman, Evans is not as strong as Burton, but he did a good job keeping Burton in front of him.”
Burton, who likely will finish the season as a first-team all-Atlantic 10 player, led the game with 22 points for Richmond. He also grabbed nine rebounds.
Yet, despite being the only player to score more than 20, Burton struggled with his long-range jumper, making just 1-of-8 from deep. Had some of those shots gone in, the game may have ended with a different result.
But in the closing 90 seconds, the Bonnies almost coughed it away. They struggled against Richmond’s full-court pressure.
A couple of careless turnovers allowed Richmond to get right back in it.
After the Bonnies held a 58-to-49 lead with 1:58 to play, the Spiders hit some big shots over the next minute to cut the deficit to just three.
Following an Isaiah Bigelow 3-pointer, which made it 60-to-57 with 56 seconds remaining, Andre Gustavson committed a silly foul on Banks III.
A miscommunication must have occurred.
Richmond did not need to foul the Bonnies intentionally in that situation, especially since the shot clock remained on in just a 3-point game.
Nonetheless, the Bonnies made Gustavson and the Spiders pay, as Banks III calmly knocked down his free throws, and the Bonnies faced no further threat from there.
So after six successful days in Richmond, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies head back home to a frigid Western New York. Next up for the Brown and White is a showdown with the Dayton Flyers on Saturday night at the Reilly Center.
“We are just trying to get better,” Schmidt said about the overall state of his team. “We want to be playing our best basketball as the season gets closer to March. We made some strides on this road trip, but we have a young team, and hopefully, we can come out and play well against a really good Dayton team on Saturday.”
Jack Milko is a current graduate student at St. Bonaventure University. He will graduate with an M.A. in Sports Journalism in May 2023. He also covers the Bonnies for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter @Jack_Milko.
Featured image courtesy of Scott Eddy, Assistant Athletic Director for Strategic Communications at St. Bonaventure University.