DAYTON, Ohio – It is widely known that the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (10-3, 2-0 Conf.) have had some recent success at University of Dayton (UD) Arena. In 2018, Bona defeated UCLA in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, which was their first tournament victory since 1970. Three years later, the Bonnies bested VCU in Dayton to win their second Atlantic 10 Championship in program history.
But the success stops there as the Brown and White have historically struggled against the team that calls UD Arena home.
Since the Dayton Flyers (11-6, 3-1 Conf.) joined the mighty Atlantic 10 Conference in 1995, the Bonnies have beaten the Flyers in Dayton just twice.
The first instance was in February 2002 while the second victory occurred in February 2016, when Jaylen Adams led the way with 31 points.
In fact, that was the last time the Bonnies beat the Flyers.
That’s right, the “Iron Man Five” of Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, Dominick Welch, Jalen Adaway, and Osun Osunniyi are 0-3 against Dayton.
On Tuesday night, these Bonnies will look to beat Dayton for the first time in their careers. A win would help Bona keep pace with Davidson in the standings and would also let the rest of the conference know that Friday’s victory over VCU was no fluke. It could also blossom into a Quad 1 victory as Dayton is ranked 82nd in the NET.
The game tips off at 7:00 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN+.
Scouting the Dayton Flyers
Back in November, Dayton lost home games to UMASS Lowell, Lipscomb, and Austin Peay before defeating Miami, Kansas, and Belmont at the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando.
They also beat Virginia Tech in December.
Needless to say, it has been a wild ride for these Flyers. They clearly can beat anyone, but also lose to anyone too. That’s what happens when you have a team that consists of 11 freshman and just two upperclassmen.
In fact, Dayton ranks dead last in the country in experience, according to KenPom. Their inexperience is perhaps a reason why this team turns the ball over on almost 22% of their possessions, which is somewhat of an alarming rate.
But that does not mean this Flyer team should be overlooked. This team defeated a National Championship contender in Kansas on Thanksgiving weekend. And the Flyers are tough to beat on their home floor, as laid out above.
“You watch them play, they really execute,” St. Bonaventure Coach Mark Schmidt said when asked about Dayton’s roster. “They play like a veteran team. They’re not sped up, they’re really fundamental, [and] they’re really well coached. They have a really good mix of mostly young guys, but young guys who are really, really talented.”
The Flyers do not have just one young star.
Rather, they have eight players that see at least 17.2 minutes per game. Six of those eight are freshman.
Daron Holmes II, the 6-foot-10 forward from Goodyear, Arizona, averages 11.1 points per game (PPG) and 5.4 rebounds per game. He will likely matchup against SBU’s Osunniyi inside. In Saturday’s victory over Duquesne, Holmes led the way with 18 points as he shot an efficient 9-for-12 from the field. He has scored in double-figures in six straight games.
Kobe Elvis is another young freshman phenom to keep an eye out for. Standing at 6-foot-2, the Brampton, Ontario native currently averages 7.1 PPG.
Elvis is a lights-out shooter as he currently makes 40.5% of his three-point attempts. A season ago, at DePaul, he shot 41.9% from beyond the arc. He went 4-for-4 from downtown in Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Malachi Smith, the freshman guard from the Bronx, currently averages 10.2 PPG. College basketball fans might remember Malachi’s older brother Scoochie, who helped lead Dayton to the Elite Eight in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Smith leads the team in assists, averaging 4.7 per game.
Then there’s the “Flying Finn,” Mustapha Amzil. Standing at 6-foot-10, Amzil hails from Helsinki, Finland. The freshman averages 6.6 PPG coming off the bench and plays a key role in every game he plays.
He proved to be the difference against Kansas:
Following the Davis McCormack block, Mustapha Amzil (@MustaphaAmzil_) Throws up the Super High floater AT THE BUZZER and it bounces home as time expired for Dayton to UPSET #4 Kansas 74-73 in the ESPN Events Invitational pic.twitter.com/zHEtSXv5uu
— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) November 26, 2021
R.J. Blakney is yet another freshman to watch for. The Baltimore native averages 6.6 PPG and shoots 42.3% from deep on his home floor. He scored seven points against Duquesne and corralled five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
Along with the freshmen, junior Elijah Weaver and sophomore Toumani Camara are two of the most important players for Dayton.
Despite not recording a point against Duquesne, Weaver averages 8.3 PPG and has connected on 37.0% of his three-point attempts so far this season. He has scored ten or more points in seven games thus far.
Camara, who transferred to Dayton from the University of Georgia, currently averages 10.5 PPG. He scored nine against Duquesne and was held to just five points in the victory over St. Louis on Jan. 11.
Overall, the Flyers live and die by the three. In their six losses, Dayton attempted 120 three-pointers. They made just 29 of them, which equates to an abysmal 24.1%.
With that said, over the course of the whole season, the Flyers have drained 33.6% of their three-point attempts. That’s remarkable considering how poorly they have shot in their six losses.
Clearly, three-point shooting makes or breaks the Flyers. If the Bonnies can defend the perimeter, which they have struggled do so at times this season, then they should be able to beat Dayton in Southwest Ohio for just the third time in program history. But if Dayton catches fire, then they can beat anybody, just as A10 Talk’s Chris Pyle noted in his column on Monday.
To this point, St. Bonaventure’s opponents have collectively made 34.5% of their three-pointers, which ranks 232nd in the country, per KenPom. As referenced above, Bona has struggled at defending the three this year when compared to last season. (Remember the Northern Iowa game?) At the end of the 2020-21 season, the Bonnies ranked 32nd in the country at defending the three, as their opponents shot 30.7% from downtown, according to KenPom.
In Friday night’s victory over VCU, the Rams went 7-of-20 from beyond the arc, which equates to 35%. The Bonnies won that game not because they defended the long ball well, but because they went to the free-throw line 19 more times than VCU did.
Thus, if the Bonnies are going to win, they will have to outshoot the Flyers.
Unfortunately for Bona fans, I do not envision that happening.
If this game were in the comfortable confines of the Reilly Center, I would take the home team. But the Flyers have one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball and have shot the ball well at home as of late.
Dayton 69, St. Bonaventure 66
Jack Milko received his B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He is now working to get his M.A. in Sports Journalism from St. Bonaventure University. A lifelong fan of the Bonnies, Jack covers the team for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter for more Bonnies coverage at @Jack_Milko.
Featured image courtesy of Dan Nelligan, St. Bonaventure Class of 2020, who serves as a photographer for @A10Talk.