St. Bonaventure punched their ticket to New York with a thrilling 52-51 victory over Virginia on Tuesday. The NIT quarterfinal game at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville saw the Bonnies stage a dramatic comeback in the last two minutes. Bona improved to 23-9 and will face Xavier in the NIT semis next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. Virginia finished the season at 21-14. Numbers and notes…,.
Possessions: 58- Virginia averages 60 possessions, Bona 66. The proverbial ‘rock fight’. The tempo was a little slower but nothing coach Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies weren’t prepared for.
Offensive efficiency: St. Bonaventure 90, Virginia 88- The two teams had very good turnover rates, Bona 12% and Virginia 16%. The field goal percentages kept the efficiency below the season average of both teams. Bona shot 37% overall and 20% from three. Virginia’s field goal percentage was 38%. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, not a jump shooting team, hit 26% of their attempts beyond the arc.
Kyle Lofton. Who else would you want on the line with five seconds to go and you are down one? Lofton delivered. The A10 tournament is in the rear view mirror. Lofton was poised, ready and showed nothing but net on both shots.
“It’s something I prayed for. Everything comes full circle,” Lofton told gobonnies.com. “I prayed for it. If I’m in this position again , I’ll hit them. I’m confident in myself and not let one situation hurt me.”
Schmidt added, “With Kyle it’s character. Character is what wins. He didn’t hang his head after the Saint Louis game. He’s a special kid and the guy we wanted on the line at the end.”
Virginia’s Armaan Franklin was the leading scorer with 17 points. Jayden Gardner added 14. Bona had three in double figures. Dominick Welch, Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi all scored 10 points. Welch added a game high 10 boards.
Virginia’s Kadin Sheldrick was effective inside, especially when Osunniyi was saddled with foul trouble. The 6’11” sophomore had an eight point, nine rebound outing.
Crunch time. In a tense contest with four ties and eight lead changes, the issue wasn’t settled until the last possession. Virginia, fueled by two Franklin three pointers in the stretch, held a five point edge with just under two minutes to play. The Cavaliers would not score another field goal. Two missed free throws by Virginia opened the door for the Bonnies. Welch hit a three with the shot clock winding down to trim the deficit to one. After Virginia missed the front end of a one and one, the Bonnies rebounded and called timeout. On the ensuing possession Lofton was fouled taking the ball to the basket. He canned both free throws with 5.3 seconds to go. On the final possession Virginia went the length of the floor only to find their last attempt from the right of the lane, blocked into the stands by Osunniyi as time expired.
“Usually you get down by five to Virginia and that’s like you’re down by 15,” Schmidt said. “I thought we guarded just as well as they did. We hit some big shots and Osun had a big block at the end….We are looking forward to representing the Atlantic 10 in Madison Square Garden.” ”
Bona faithful are headed to a ‘Garden Party’. With apologies to Ricky Nelson. Bona fans were out in force in Charlottesville. Alumni helped fund the trip, meals and hotel rooms for about 10 carloads of Bona students. And those students and alums were heard loud and clear in John Paul Jones Arena. Now the school is looking into getting buses to transport students to New York City. Alums will be out in full force. “That’s what Bonaventure is all about,” Schmidt said. “People support us wherever we go. It’s great to know we have the support of so many people and to know how much they care.” Yes, it promises to be a ‘Garden Party’.
Final notes: Holmes scored his 1,000th career point early in the second half.
Abdoul Karim Colibaly did a commendable job spelling Osunniyi when the latter was in foul trouble. Coulibaly logged 12 minutes scoring four points while pulling down 5 rebounds.
Kenpom number- trailing by three with under a minute left Kenpom per stat analysis rated the Bonnies a 5.5% chance of winning. Stats and numbers have their value but do not measure heart, as Schmidt summed it up best saying,” our guys believed and did what they needed to do.”