Game PreviewsSt. BonaventureTourney Central

Bonnies to Play Duquesne in Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals

On Thursday morning, the Duquesne Dukes stormed back to upset the Richmond Spiders in the Second Round of the 2021 Atlantic 10 Tournament. Duquesne, the nine-seed, now advances to play the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, the top seed in the tournament.

The (#1) Bonnies and the (#9) Dukes will square off on Friday at 11 am on NBC Sports Network.

St. Bonaventure has played the Dukes twice already this season, with the Bonnies winning both contests.

Takeaways from Duquesne-Richmond

Duquesne’s defense in the second half was phenomenal. According to KenPom, the Dukes rank seventh in the conference in defensive efficiency. They played so much better than that. During the final 20 minutes, Richmond made only six field goals as they shot a tough 27.2% from the floor. To add to this, following the under-eight media timeout, the Dukes outscored the Spiders 23-11 to sneak into the Quarterfinals.

The full team stats from this game are below:

Team stats from the Second Round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament; Duquesne prevailed over Richmond 67 to 62. Statistics courtesy of espn.com.

Two things stick out from this stat sheet.

First, both teams struggled to find their touch from downtown. The Dukes drained just five threes with Senior guard Tavian Dunn-Martin making two of those. This is not surprising considering Duquesne is a poor three-point shooting team. They shoot just 30.3% from beyond the arc, which ranks 13th in the conference, according to KenPom.

Secondly, these two teams combined to miss 20 free throws. This should not surprise anyone either as Duquesne is one of the worst teams in the country from the charity stripe. The Dukes make just 64.5% of their free throws, which ranks 327th in the country, according to KenPom. Among Duquesne’s starting five, only Chad Baker shoots 80% or better from the line.

And finally, this game was an absolute slugfest. The Dukes and the Spiders each played tough defense and utilized full-court pressure throughout the second half. The officials called fouls in bunches too. What does this all mean? The Dukes may come into Friday’s game against the Bonnies a little fatigued. Games in the mid-60s with a lot of defensive pressure tend to wear a team down. Remember, the Dukes had three players transfer away from the program back in early January. Consequently, the Dukes may not have the depth to play as tough on Friday. Only time will tell, however.

Scouting the Duquesne Dukes

Just because Duquesne does not shoot the ball well from deep does not mean the Bonnies should take them lightly. The Dukes run their offense through the post, as Marcus Weathers and Michael Hughes wreck havoc in the paint. Duquesne also has three athletic freshmen who complement the two bigs inside. And Tavian-Dunn Martin has emerged as one of the better point guards in the conference.

Double Dukes

Back in January, St. Bonaventure Head Coach Mark Schmidt defined Weathers and Hughes as “two strong physical inside guys.” Indeed, both players play physically down low, especially Center Michael Hughes, who gave Richmond’s Grant Golden fits in Thursday’s game. Hughes recorded 11 points and snagged ten rebounds and was primarily responsible for Golden on defense. Golden, one of the better players in the conference, scored just ten points and shot just five of 11 from the field.

Hughes stands at 6’8″ and weighs in at 240 lbs. His height may not throw off Bona forward Osun Osunniyi, who stands at 6’10”, but his weight may do so. In a battle of the boards, Hughes versus Osunniyi will be a great matchup to watch down low tomorrow. Hughes currently averages 10.5 points per game (PPG) and 7.8 rebounds per contest.

Pittsburgh, PA – Duquesne’s Marcus Weathers, who dons the number five for the Dukes, attempts to block a shot in a game against Dayton on February 3, 2021. This game actually opened up Duquesne’s brand new arena, the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse. Photo courtesy of @A10Talk.

Marcus Weathers also recorded a double-double on Thursday against Richmond. Although he stands at just 6’5″, Weathers, listed as a Forward, leads the Dukes in averaging 16.1 PPG. A transfer from Miami (OH), Weathers was selected for the 2020-21 Preseason Second Team All Atlantic 10 team. He lived up to that bill as he scored in double-figures in every game this season but one. He also snags 7.4 rebounds per game as he will likely match up against St. Bonaventure’s Jalen Adaway.

Freshmen Trio

Tyson Acuff, Chad Baker, and Tyler Okani have played vital roles for Duquesne down the stretch.

Acuff, who averages just 12 minutes per game, showed off his athleticism in the victory over Richmond on Thursday. Standing at 6’4″, the Detroit native scored nine points against the Spiders. Acuff drained one three and also hit both of his free throw attempts. Watch out for Acuff to get some minutes against the Bonnies tomorrow as the Dukes will surely need some depth.

Chad Baker, the 6’7″ forward from the Dominican Republic, has the potential to blossom into a star in this conference. It seems as if he gets better after every game. He is the best shooter that Duquesne has, shooting 42% from downtown. He can score at all three levels. Against Richmond, Baker dropped 16 points as he shot seven of 11 from the field. He also had 23 last week against Rhode Island.

Tyler Okani rounds out this trio of Freshmen. Okani, who is 6’7″, hails from Orange, NJ. He sees roughly 20 minutes per game and averages 4.7 PPG. Duquesne Head Coach Keith Dambrot has also slid Okani into the starting five as of late. He scored just four against Richmond, but he can easily score eight to ten points on any given night. That may not sound like much, but when playing in a low-scoring game where points are a premium, any contribution to the scoreboard goes along way.

Tavian Dunn-Martin

Tavian Dunn-Martin, the Akron transfer who stands at 5’8″, plays a much bigger role on this team than his size indicates. Last season, he erupted for 25 against Bona in Pittsburgh. This season, he scored 18 against the Bonnies in Pittsburgh. He has the ability to get hot quickly like a microwave.

Dunn-Martin, who averages 10.0 PPG, acts as the Quarterback for the Duquesne Dukes. Over the last four games, Dunn-Martin has played 33 minutes or more in three of those contests. He saw 36 minutes of action against Richmond and scored 11.

He also shoots from deep more often than not. Over 70% of his career field-goal attempts have come from beyond the arc. This season, Dunn-Martin is shooting 30% from downtown. He is also the only Duke to have attempted more than 100 three-pointers this season.

How Can the Bonnies Avoid an Early Exit?

Simply, if the Bonnies lose to Duquesne on Friday, then their season is over. The Dukes rank 139th in the NET. A win does not help Bona’s resume while a loss would disintegrate it. If the Bonnies were to lose to a Quad 3 team again this week, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee would undoubtedly leave the Brown and White out of the field. Plus, the Committee gives priority to teams playing well down the stretch. If the Bonnies open up March with two losses, that just gives the powers that be more reason to exclude St. Bonaventure.

Without further ado, the Bonnies can avoid disaster by (1) going through Osun Osunniyi on offense and (2) continuing to play terrific defense.

Osun!!!

In the first meeting between the Bonnies and the Dukes, at the Reilly Center on January 15, Bona forward Osun Osunniyi scored 8 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. The Bonnies won 62-48.

A week later, these two teams met again in Pittsburgh. In the second meeting, Osunniyi got himself into foul trouble and played just 24 minutes. He scored just six points and snagged just four boards. The Bonnies escaped with a four-point victory. If Osunniyi was more of a factor in the second meeting, rest assured that Bona would have won comfortably.

Philadelphia, PA – St. Bonaventure’s Osun Osunniyi goes up for a shot with his right hand while LaSalle’s Jared Kimbrough tries to prevent the attempt. Photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics.

In the quarter-final matchup on Friday, Osunniyi will need to avoid foul trouble and play a bigger role, much like he did in the first meeting between these two teams.

As I wrote yesterday, Osunniyi has been playing terrific as of late. If the Bonnies can get Osun the ball in the post, then he can go to work against the shorter Michael Hughes. He can also use his vision to find an open shooter on the wing too.

Currently, Osunniyi averages 10.0 PPG and 9.3 rebounds per game. He also leads the conference in blocks as his defense has been nothing short of fantastic this year. He had seven blocks against Dayton, which matched his career-high.

For the Bonnies to win Friday, Osunniyi will need to play big minutes against Duquesne’s physical big-men and score in double-digits. He dropped 15 against Dayton’s Jordy Tshimanaga. Osunniyi can certainly replicate that in the Quarterfinals against Duquesne.

Defense!

The Bonnies have the best defense in the Atlantic 10.

Bona gives up just 60.6 PPG, which ranks first in the conference and eighth nationally.

They also rank first in the Atlantic 10 in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

In order to win, Bona will need to keep things rolling defensively and lock down the paint. The Dukes look to work their offense inside more often than not. To defend the paint successfully, Osun Osunniyi will need to avoid foul trouble. To do that, he needs to use his athleticism and play defense with his feet rather than his arms. Yes, he has a 7’6″ wingspan, but he needs to use this advantage wisely.

Furthermore, the Bona backcourt has to lock down the perimeter. Chad Baker and Tavian Dunn-Martin are the two Dukes that can score from the outside. If Kyle Lofton and Dom Welch can continue to play terrific defense, then these two sharp-shooting Dukes will have a long afternoon. After all, Lofton has locked down three of the league’s top scorers over the past two weeks.

Finally, the Bonnies will need to crash the boards hard. They need to box out and prevent Duquense from getting second-chance opportunities. Both of these teams rebound well. The Bonnies rank fourth in the conference in snagging 36.9 rebounds per game. Duquesne, meanwhile, ranks fifth in this category.

Prediction

This will be the 127th all-time meeting between Duquesne and St. Bonaventure.

The Dukes and the Bonnies have played twice already this season and both games were low-scoring defensive slugfests.

I expect more of the same in the Quarterfinals on Friday. It’s hard to beat a team twice in one season, let alone three times, but I still think the Bonnies win a close one against a pesky Duquesne team.

St. Bonaventure 59, Duquesne 55