The 1-0 St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Following their victory over Akron on Tuesday, the Bonnies are 1-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season. The Brown and White play host to Hofstra tomorrow at 2pm on ESPN+.
St. Bonaventure dominated Akron wire-to-wire in the season opener.
They also dominated Hofstra last year, winning by a score of 73-45.
In that game, Hofstra guards Tareq Coburn and Jaylen Ray combined for only six points while shooting an ugly two of 16 from the field. St. Bonaventure Coach Mark Schmidt knows that this Hofstra team will prove to be a tougher test this time around: “[This] game is not going to be like last year. We played extremely well, we shot the ball extremely well, it was just one of those games. But they bounced back pretty well and won the league… those kids know how to win.”
Through five games so far this season, Coburn, the former Bonnie, averages 20.6 PPG while Ray is second on the team averaging 16.4 PPG.
If not for the Covid-19 Pandemic, Hofstra would have gone dancing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. In this season’s preseason poll, the Pride was picked to win the Colonial for a second consecutive season.
How to Beat Hofstra
To beat Hofstra once again, St. Bonaventure must have success against Hofstra’s 2-3 Zone. In order to do that, three things need to happen. First, the Bonnies need to push the tempo. Schmidt has insisted for years that his teams should try to get a good look within the first 12 seconds of the shot clock. Tomorrow will be no different. He also emphasized the need to get his guys out in transition, which would not provide Hofstra sufficient time to set up their zone.
When playing against a 2-3 zone, teams need to shoot the ball well from beyond the arc. St. Bonaventure needs to do so tomorrow. On Tuesday against Akron, Junior Guard Dom Welch was the lone Bonnie to knock down a triple as the team shot 7.1% from three. When asked why the team shot so poorly, Schmidt attributed it to a couple of factors: “A combination of things. Jump shooting is having good legs and we were not in the best of shape [because of the quarantine period]. We [also] didn’t have an opportunity to shoot in [the Rocket Mortgage Field House] and try and get some shots up. The backdrop is much different… but it was a combination of things overall and we just had an off night.”
Perhaps playing in the comfortable confines of the Reilly Center will change the fortunes of St. Bonaventure’s three-point shooting.
Through five games so far this season, Hofstra ranks 207th in the country in allowing opposing teams to shoot 35% from Three. The national average is 33.1%, according to KenPom. Schmidt feels confident in his guys to have a better day shooting the ball tomorrow: “We have good shooters and we will shoot better going forward. The positive was we scored 81 points and the negative is we went 1-14 [against Akron].”
In the game against Hofstra last year, Jaren Holmes had a career high four daggers from deep. Holmes and Welch both had 17 last year against the Pride. Hopefully both players can replicate that success again tomorrow.
Finally, St. Bonaventure should continue to go through Osun Osunniyi on offense. Playing against the 2-3 zone, Bonaventure must rotate the ball quickly around the perimeter, and have Osun move around the paint and flash to whatever side the ball is on. If this happens, the zone will break down and Osun will have open looks inside. If the zone collapses on him, he can kick it back out to open shooters beyond the arc. Osun’s passing abilities are extremely underrated, as he may be the best passing big-man in the conference come season’s end. But, as always, his abilities become restricted if he finds himself in foul trouble. Hopefully the 6’10” Junior can limit his hacks and have another dominant performance against a smaller Hofstra team.
On defense, St. Bonaventure will need to force Hofstra to work in its half-court defense. As Coach Schmidt also emphasized, Hofstra is terrific in the open court as they are very athletic and can score at will.
In order keep Hofstra in the half-court, Bona needs to limit their turnovers. The Bonnies only committed ten on Tuesday. If they can do more of the same tomorrow, then they should be in good shape.
In what will be a great day for Western New York Sports tomorrow, St. Bonaventure will move to 2-0 for the first time in seven years by beating Hofstra, 75-68. KenPom also agrees, as the statistical database predicts the Bonnies to win 79-69.
Speaking of Western New York Sports, if you may recall, last year at this exact time, the Saturday before Christmas, St. Bonaventure defeated Middle Tennessee State by a point. Following the conclusion of that Bonaventure nail-bitter, the Buffalo Bills kicked off their game against the New England Patriots. Although the opponents are different tomorrow, the timing is eerily similar: the Bonnies tip-off at 2pm while the Bills play the Broncos at Mile High at 4:30.