Once again they were road warriors. St. Bonaventure edged Oklahoma in the second round of the NIT, an 70-68 heart stopping contest at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma. Sunday evening’s victory improved the Bonnies to 22-9 while Oklahoma finished its season at 19-16. Bona will now face Virginia, a 71-69 overtime winner at North Texas, on Tuesday in the tournament quarterfinal with a trip to Madison Square Garden on the line. Numbers and notes….
Possessions: 64 – Basic grind it our pace which was in line with the average tempo of both teams.
Offensive efficiency: St. Bonaventure 109, Oklahoma 106. Both teams shot well. Bona shot 51% from the floor including 53% from long distance. The host Sooners checked in with a 47% performance, 42% from three. The difference in the efficiency was turnovers. Bona had the edge in turnover rate posting a tidy 16% while Oklahoma struggled with a 22% rate.
Opportune time. Bonnies in general and Jaren Holmes in particular picked the perfect time to find the range. Holmes scored a team-high 23 points on 8 of 12 shooting, including a perfect 4 of 4 beyond the arc.
“It’s been a tough road this season. It’s emotional for me,” Holmes told gobonnies.com. “It’s our senior year. Being able to do this with these guys is special. I’m thankful to be here; thankful that my teammates have stood by me. Today is a day I’ll always remember.”
Bona starting five all hit double figures. Beside Holmes, Osun Osunniyi had 14 (along with a game-high 10 boards), Jalen Adaway 11 and Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch both scored 10.
Oklahoma’s senior guard Umoja Gibson was the game’s leading scorer with 26 points. An All-Big 12 Tournament selection, Gibson was a threat all night, shooting 6 of 11 from deep.
In a game featuring five ties and 14 lead changes. Lofton was clutch, hitting a crucial three pointer late to push the Bona lead to four. The Sooners never drew even. They had a chance to tie but Marvin Johnson’s jumper with five seconds remaining missed the mark and Osunniyi grabbed the rebound.
Opportunity. There has been a lot of discussion on social media about the Bonnies, a higher seed, being sent to Virginia for the next round. The game is set, 7 p.m. in Charlottesville, Virginia. The team mindset here is to not obsess about not having a packed Reilly Center for the quarterfinal. Make the most of the opportunity and be prepared. The chance to move on to the semis and Madison Square Garden is on the table. Just focus on the task at hand.
Virginia’s Tony Bennett utilizes the pack line defense. It’s his signature defense. Bona coach Mark Schmidt is familiar with the pack line principles as he’s used it himself as well.
Oklahoma coach Porter Moser had some familiarity with Schmidt and the Bona program. Moser is known for leading Loyola to the Final Four before heading to Big 12 country. Prior to Loyola, Moser assisted the late Rick Majerus at Saint Louis. Moser and Schmidt incidentally were both hired by Steve Watson. Schmidt was hired when Watson was the Bona AD. Moser was Watson’s hire after settling in the same role at Loyola.
Bona’s win over Oklahoma came on the 45th anniversary of the school’s NIT championship, a 94-91 defeat of Houston. It was also former Bona coach Jim Baron’s birthday. Baron was the lead guard on that NIT champion.
Kenpom.com predicts Virginia a 66-63 winner over the Bonnies in the quarterfinals. Do not despair Bona faithful, Kenpom also predicted losses for Saint Peter’s in both their NCAA Tournament contests.
“Just really proud of our guys. The crowd got into it but we made some big shots when we needed to and we got stops. I thought Jaren played terrific. ‘Shoon’ was excellent…This win says a lot about our guys. Our guys showed some great mental and physical toughness. I’m really proud of the way we played.” – Mark Schmidt.