Sioux Falls, S.D. – After a tough loss in Buffalo, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have a quick turnaround as they head to the badlands of South Dakota on Tuesday. Bona will face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits of the Summit League at the Sanford Pentagon.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. EST and will air on ESPN+.
“[South Dakota State] has a culture of winning,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt told the media on Monday. “It’s harder to win on the road, you have to play that much better. We didn’t do that against Canisius. We are going to have to play better if we want to beat a team of South Dakota State’s caliber. They’re an exceptional team with really good players.”
Although this game will officially go down as a neutral site contest, the Sanford Pentagon sits just 50 miles from South Dakota State’s campus. For those wondering, it is 1,120 miles from St. Bonaventure, New York.
Coach Schmidt does not seem worried about the voyage, however.
“It’s the central time zone, so it’s only a 1-hour difference,” Schmidt said. “It’s like going to St. Louis. We have done that a number of times, so that is not going to be the reason that we play well or don’t play well. We charter so that’s a whole different ball game, which makes it easier.”
Schmidt has bigger worries.
Despite losing reigning Summit League Player of the Year Baylor Schiereman to the transfer portal (Creighton), the Jacks still have the firepower to return to the NCAA Tournament. Summit League pollsters selected the Jackrabbits to finish second in the preseason poll behind Oral Roberts.
“They are a good team,” Schmidt noted when discussing South Dakota State. “They have two really good big guys inside that are a force. Those guys make you double-team and do some different things, which lets their guards get open shots. They run a simple but effective offense. They try and go inside-out. If you double the big guys, they kick it out and shoot 3-pointers. So we have to do a better job closing out and keeping the ball in front of us. It’s a big challenge [for us].”
Matt Dentlinger and William Kyle III are the two forwards Schmidt alluded to.
Dentlinger, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound senior from Arcadia, Iowa, leads the Jacks in scoring. In his team’s opening night loss at Akron, in which South Dakota State lost 81-to-80 in overtime, Dentlinger scored 15 points and converted 6-of-8 of his attempts from the field. He followed that up with a solid performance in the two-point victory at Boise State, scoring 19 and making 7-of-11 from the field.
Dentlinger does not shoot many 3-pointers, but he did drain his only attempt in Boise. He likes to work inside, draw contact, and get to the free-throw line. He has made 72.2% of his free throws for his career.
Kyle III operates down low alongside Dentlinger. A native of Bellevue, Nebraska, Kyle III stands at 6-foot-9 and averages 12.5 points per game (PPG). The freshman operates similarly to Dentlinger in that he does not shoot from the outside but operates efficiently from inside the paint. He has shot 12-of-16 from the floor through the season’s first two games.
St. Bonaventure forwards Anouar Mellouk, Barry Evans, and Chad Venning will have their hands full against Dentlinger and Kyle III. This group has held its own against opposing big men thus far; however, foul trouble has sometimes plagued the Bonaventure frontcourt. They will have to stay disciplined. Foul trouble could make things difficult for Bona in the Mount Rushmore State.
Keep an eye on how Bona defends the Jackrabbits, considering that both of these teams run similar offenses.
“If they have numbers, they will push it. If they don’t, they will run their motion offense. It’s very similar styles,” Schmidt said. “We may run a few more sets than they do, but it’s pack-line defense, half-court offense. We [both] try to get the ball to the paint by the pass or off the dribble. Very similar styles, but they are more of a veteran team. Hopefully, we can keep it in the half-court, keep them out of the paint, get to the 3-point line shooters and do a good job in the low post against their big guys. It will be a big challenge for us.”
A season ago, South Dakota State led the country in 3-point shooting. They have not displayed that prowess yet, having made just a third of their 3-point attempts thus far, but the Jacks still have talent in their backcourt.
South Dakota State Coach Eric Henderson has four guards that average at least 26 minutes per game.
Zeke Mayo, a sophomore from Lawrence, Kansas, leads the backcourt in averaging 13.0 PPG. He has made just 30.8% of his attempts from beyond the arc, but a season ago, he shot 41.5% from three.
Senior Alex Arians, a 6-foot-4 guard from Madison, Wisconsin, averages 11.5 PPG. He does not shoot the three often, but he can knock down an open look if he has the opportunity.
Charlie Easley and Matt Mims are the other guards that Bona will defend most often on Tuesday.
Easley, who hails from Lincoln, Nebraska, shot 50% from 3-point range a season ago. The 6-foot-2 junior has only made one 3-pointer this season, but he can get hot quickly.
Then Mims will come off the bench for the Jacks. He averages 6.5 PPG. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa senior has drained 4-of-6 from deep so far this season.
The Bonaventure backcourt of Kyrell Luc and Daryl Banks III will have their hands full defensively.
Bona allowed Canisius to convert 50% of their 3-point attempts. Although, as Schmidt pointed out to the media on Monday, the Canisius frontcourt drained six of those.
The Bonnies must close out better defensively, or they are in for a long night.
But they also cannot take ill-advised 3-point shot attempts. When they do, those long rebounds have allowed their opponents to get out and run. This South Dakota State loves to get out in transition, so the Brown and White will need to slow the game down by working their motion offense and getting the ball inside.
Luc has the athletic ability to dash by defenders and get to the paint. He can both score and pass. Against St. Francis in the opener, Luc exploded for 23 points. He then followed that up by dishing out a career-high nine assists at Canisius. Although he struggled with his shot in Buffalo, Luc played 43 minutes and kept his team in it until the very end.
Banks also helped keep Bonaventure afloat during the overtime period, but he struggled for most of the game. Although he scored 22 points, Banks made 5-of-13 from the field and went 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. All three of those successful attempts came in the extra period.
As a team, the Bonnies converted just six 3-pointers and missed 12. They have shot 27% from deep so far this season, good for 264th in the country, per KenPom.
But these Bonnies are young. They have a lot to learn and plenty of time to improve. Any coach will tell you they want their team to play their best ball in March, not November.
Tuesday will prove as a great learning opportunity for the New Look Bonnies.
“South Dakota State is an Atlantic 10 caliber team,” Schmidt said. “Anytime we can play a good team like this on the road, it will help us. It will show our guys what this level is all about because we have nobody that has played in an Atlantic 10 game yet. They will have that experience tomorrow night, which will only help us as the season continues.”
Bonaventure has struggled with shooting and defending the 3-point shot thus far. Although the Jacks have teetered out of the gate as well, they can still heat up like a microwave and make treys in bunches.
Even though this game will not occur on the South Dakota State campus, this game is a de-facto home game for the Jackrabbits. KenPom has labeled this game as “Semi-Away” for the Bonnies. To draw an analogy, South Dakota State is to the Sanford Pentagon as St. Bonaventure is to Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York.
The Sanford Pentagon opened in 2013, and Tuesday’s game against St. Bonaventure will mark South Dakota State’s 16th appearance in the facility. The Jacks have an overall record of 7-8 there, and unfortunately for the Bonnies, I see that record improving to 8-8.
Bonaventure’s 3-point defense continues to struggle in the Badlands.
South Dakota State 75, St. Bonaventure 68
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 Dan Nelligan, St. Bonaventure ’20.