KINGSTON, R.I. – With five minutes remaining in the game, the Bonnies looked dead in the water as they faced a double-digit deficit. But instead of folding over, this young team rallied off eleven straight and took a one-point lead with 33 seconds to go. Unfortunately for the Bonnies, Rhode Island’s Ishmael Leggett hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds remaining, which ultimately sealed a 68-67 victory for the Rams. Bona had multiple chances at the buzzer, but it was not meant to be.
Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
1. Schmidt Should Be Proud: The Bonnies have now lost all six of their true road games this season, but St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt should feel proud of his team’s efforts in Wednesday’s loss. Earlier this season, Bona held the lead late in multiple games away from home, only for those moments to turn into gut-wrenching losses. The exact opposite played out at the Ryan Center, as Rhode Island held the lead for 35:43 of game time. Their largest lead of the game came with 5:08 to play when Rhody led 64-53. But Bona went on a 14-2 run and forced Rhode Island into a scoring drought that lasted almost four minutes. Their defense stepped up, and they hit some big shots, which is hard to do on the road. “Against any team on the road, it’s hard to come back,” Schmidt said in the post-game. “We keep putting ourselves in that position. We battled back but just came up a little short.” Even though the Rams will likely finish towards the bottom of the standings, not all hope for Bonaventure was lost in the Ocean State.
2. The Dorchester Duo Dominates: Kyrell Luc and Moses Flowers, who both hail from Dorchester, Massachusetts, just south of Boston, felt comfortable throughout their return to New England. Luc, who scored the game’s first seven points, finished with a team-high 20 points and dished out nine assists. Bona’s point guard also grabbed seven rebounds, recorded five steals, and finished with one block. With 1:55 left in the game, Luc hit his second 3-pointer to cut Rhody’s lead to 66-64, giving Bonaventure much hope. Unfortunately for Luc, he had a great look on the game’s final possession, but his attempt from the left block bounced off the rim and away from victory. Nonetheless, Luc played phenomenally, as did Flowers.
Over the past month, Flowers has made a compelling case to earn a spot in the starting lineup. But Schmidt, echoing the great John Wooden, emphasized that his team has “finishers,” not “starters,” when speaking to the media Tuesday in the lead-up to Wednesday’s game. Over his past three games, Flowers has averaged 14 points per game (PPG), as he had 15 for a second straight game at Rhody. Despite fouling out, Flowers played 30 minutes off the bench. He also grabbed four rebounds and recorded two steals.
3. Anquan Hill, the Unsung Hero: Anquan Hill notched six points and played 17 minutes in the loss, including some critical minutes down the stretch. The 6-foot-9 sophomore from Philadelphia, who won the Northeastern Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Year award at Farleigh Dickinson last season, had a couple of big dunks and a massive block with 46 seconds remaining. Facing a two-point deficit, Hill’s big defensive play allowed Bona to get up the floor in transition, thus not allowing Rhody to get set up defensively. 13 seconds later, Daryl Banks III finished through contact in the lane, as the officials called a foul on Brandon Weston with 33 ticks to go. Banks III subsequently knocked down the free throw, which gave Bona a 67-66 advantage—its first lead since the opening minutes. All in all, Hill received a huge confidence boost at Rhode Island. Perhaps Schmidt will turn to him off the bench more, as his long frame can help this team defensively as conference play wears on.
Another Anquan slam! 🔨🔨
No better place than here to start that rally pic.twitter.com/dOHPpsEhRD
— Bonnies Men's Basketball (@BonniesMBB) January 12, 2023
4. Fouls Rear Their Ugly Head… Again: Only one word can describe the abundance of fouls Bonaventure commits in seemingly every game: oof. Flowers fouled out, Luc picked up four, and Venning and Banks III each had three infractions. As a team, the officials called 20 fouls on the Bonnies as Rhody entered the bonus in both halves with lots of time left on the clock. As a result, the Rams shot 29 free throws, making 24. On the contrary, Bona made 9-of-13 from the charity stripe, as no Rhode Island starter picked up more than three fouls. To date, the Bonnies rank 336th in the country in free throws allowed defensively per KenPom. That’s not a recipe for success. Bona needs to control their fouling habits, or the final 14 games will be challenging to watch.
5. Next Up: The Richmond Spiders, the 2022 Atlantic 10 Champions, visit the Reilly Center on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Chris Mooney, who has led the Richmond program since 2005, holds a 13-12 record overall against the Bonnies. The Spiders have a 10-7 record this season, as they have won three straight in conference play after opening up the Atlantic 10 season with a loss at George Mason. The Spiders and the Bonnies will air on USA Network, the first time St. Bonaventure airs on national television this season.
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 Alan Hubbard, Rhode Island Athletics