For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have won five of their first six games. Following their win over Fordham on Wednesday afternoon, the Bonnies quickly turnaround and host Duquense tomorrow night at 7 pm. The game tomorrow, the 125th meeting between these rivals, will air on ESPN2. For what it’s worth, the Bonnies lead the closely contested series 64 games to 60.
The Duquense Dukes also played on Wednesday night, losing at Dayton by a score of 72 to 63. So both the Bonnies and the Dukes will play each other on short rest.
Nonetheless, a greater story developed this past week out of Pittsburgh. Sincere Carry, Duquense’s starting point guard, announced that he would depart the program, effective immediately. Perhaps the Ohio native wanted to play closer to home, as various college basketball insiders announced yesterday that he will transfer to Kent State. Before leaving, Carry averaged 9.0 PPG and led the team in assists per game in averaging 4.8 per contest. The Dukes certainly missed his presence in the close victory against Fordham last Saturday and in the loss at Dayton Arena this past Wednesday.
Scouting the Duquense Dukes
The last time these two teams played, at the Reilly Center on February 26, 2020, Duquense triumphed the Bonnies in overtime, 81-77. Leading the way for the Dukes in that game, with 18 points apiece, were Center Michael Hughes and Guard Sincere Carry. Of course, Carry is gone. But the Dukes still have a solid point guard in Tavian Dunn-Martin and a rising freshman guard in Toby Okani.
They pose a major threat down low, as both Hughes and Forward Marcus Weathers could give Bonaventure fits in the paint.
“[Duquense is] a very physical team. [They’re] similar to Rhode Island. They have two really good big guys inside. We need to be able to guard the post and keep [Tavian] Dunn-Martin under control. We need to match them physically. They try to pound the ball inside,” St. Bonaventure Coach Mark Schmidt said in his media session today.
Dambrot’s Odd Backcourt
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. He has the ability to get hot quickly like a microwave. Although he has only started four out of seven games thus far, his role should increase going forward due to Carry’s mid-season transfer. He is averaging 11.4 PPG to this point.
Dunn-Martin can dish it to his teammates and also shoot the three, as he leads his team in three-pointers made this season. Dunn-Martin’s three-point dagger with just 28 seconds left against Fordham proved to be the difference last Saturday.
Playing alongside Dunn-Martin in the backcourt will likely be Toby Okani, the freshman from Orange, NJ. He has seen increased minutes since Carry’s departure. He has even started the last two games, playing 23 and 32 minutes respectively. His offensive statistics, averaging 4.0 PPG and shooting a little over 43% from the field, do not jump off the page. His 6’7″ frame does instead.
In a rather odd circumstance for Duquense Head Coach Keith Dambrot, Okani stands almost a foot taller than his fellow guard in the backcourt. It will be interesting to see how the Bonaventure guards play, particularly Dom Welch and Jarren Holmes when guarded by Okani.
As customary with Dambrot’s clubs, Duquense will likely play ten or more players tomorrow night. He has played at least ten players in all seven of their games so far this season. Look for guards Tyson Acuff and Ryan Murphy to see action too.
One final note regarding the Duquense backcourt: Sophomore Maceo Austin, who averages 4.8 PPG, has missed the last two games due to personal reasons. It remains to be seen if he suits up tomorrow night at the RC.
Poor Three-Point Shooting
In Wednesday night’s loss to Dayton, Duquense shot a putrid 3 of 17 from beyond the arc. In that game, Marcus Weathers hit both of his three-point attempts as the rest of the team combined to go one for 15.
Of course, this bodes well for the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure leads the conference in defending against the three-ball. Per KenPom, the Bonnies hold its opponents to shooting just 27.6% from three per game. Duquense, meanwhile, ranks 12th in the Atlantic 10 in three-point field goal percentage at 27.4%.
Just because the Dukes struggle from beyond the arc, however, does not mean that they cannot score from deep. Just ask the Fordham Rams after Dunn-Martin’s dagger sealed the deal last weekend.
Going Through the Post
Duquense will run its offense through Michael Hughes and Marcus Weathers. Coach Schmidt emphasized that these two are “strong physical inside guys.”
Hughes, the 6’8″ Senior Center from Kansas City, leads the team in rebounds by averaging almost seven per contest. Despite averaging only 7.7 PPG, Hughes has a nice shot. Dambrot motions all of his players around inside and out, so keep an eye on Hughes working from both the paint and the outside. The Senior obviously has the potential to score more; look no further than Duquense’s victory at the RC from last season.
Hughes weighs in at 240 lbs, so his height may not throw off 6’10” Bona Forward Osun Osunniyi 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 night.
Although he stands at just 6’5″, Marcus Weathers, listed as a Forward, leads the Dukes in averaging 14.0 PPG. Another player from the Kansas City area, Weathers, a transfer from Miami (OH), was selected for the 2020-21 Preseason Second Team All Atlantic 10 team. He rarely takes a three, as he has hit only three of nine so far this season, but he shoots a solid 49.3% from the field. He has the ability to score in bunches, as he has achieved his career-high of 26 points twice.
How Do The Bonnies Extend the Win Streak?
Duquense will certainly test the Bonnies, despite Carry’s absence. After all, the Dukes were selected to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 Preseason Poll. But, if the Bonnies can (1) stay out of foul trouble, (2) win the rebounding battle, and (3) continue to share the wealth, the Brown and White should enter the weekend riding a four-game win streak.
Staying Out of Foul Trouble
Duquense will look to run its offense through Weathers and Hughes. Thus, Osunniyi, who has had 31 career games with at least three blocks and is the team leader in rebounds, must stay in the game for as long as possible. To do that, of course, he has to limit his hacks. As I have written before and will say, again and again, Osun’s the most important player on this team. His defensive presence is irreplaceable. He is a monster on the glass. He needs to play quality minutes.
Dambrot knows this too. He will have his guys, Weathers and Hughes, go right at Osun to try and get him out of the game. When Osunniyi plays more than 30 minutes, the Bonnies are undefeated. When he fails to play 30 minutes, the Bonnies are 0-1. Osun fouled out in Bona’s lone loss to Rhode Island on December 30.
Other Bonnies have to stay out of foul trouble too. Holmes and Lofton have racked up some fouls as of late. Even on Wednesday, late in the first half, Lofton picked up a technical foul after voicing his displeasure with an official after his first infraction. He had to sit out the remainder of the first half. As soon as he re-entered after halftime, Lofton provided the Bonnies a spark as they outscored Fordham 31-17 in the closing frame. Lofton scored his 1,000th career point in the period too.
“It is imperative we match their physical toughness without fouling,” Coach Schmidt remarked.
Continue to Win the Rebounding Battle
“One thing we have done well recently is rebound the basketball,” Coach Schmidt happily said.
Through four conference games, the Bonnies lead the Atlantic 10 in averaging 12.5 offensive rebounds per game and their rebounding margin sits at a nice +6.5 per contest. They have been tremendous on the glass so far this season and they need to continue this trend tomorrow night. When the Bonnies outrebound their opponent, they are 4-0. When Bona does not, they are 1-1.
The Bonnies have some height, but so does Duquense. Thus, the rebounding battle will be an important game within the game. As noted above, watch out for Hughes and Osunniyi down low.
Obviously, as the stats indicate, the Bonnies are a good rebounding team as of late. The Fordham game serves as a perfect example as Bona dominated the glass, outrebounding the Rams 43-24. Dom Welch tied his career-high in grabbing 14 boards. Jalen Adaway also snagged nine. Osun had seven boards of his own.
If these trends continue, Bona should be able to limit Duquense’s possessions while adding some extra possessions of their own by crashing the offensive glass.
Keep Sharing the Wealth
On Wednesday against Fordham, Bonaventure had 20 assists on 24 made field goals.
Just look at this beautiful assists chart from our friend @SBUnfurled:
Today's Assist Net: an excellent 20 assists on 24 FGs.
Osun led the way with a career-high 7 assists. pic.twitter.com/qy3yBM3qqM
— SBUnfurled (@SBUnfurled) January 13, 2021
Kyle Lofton had six assists as he continues to lead the conference in that category. He now has 348 for his career, as he now ranks 9th in program history in assists.
But it was Osun Osunniyi who led the way in sharing the wealth for the Bonnies against Fordham. The Junior Forward has incredible court vision as he dished out seven assists, the most by a Bonnie center during the Mark Schmidt era!
Holmes and Welch each had three assists apiece too.
If the Bonnies can continue to play unselfish basketball, then they can truly run with anyone in the conference. In fact, Bona’s Assist to Field Goals Made percentage currently sits at 62.7%, good for second in the Atlantic 10 and 19th in the nation.
The Bonnies have five guys that average double-digit points per game because of their willingness to find the open man, regardless of who it is. Keep sharing the wealth Bona, it works.
Duquense has had a rocky season to this point. Since returning from quarantine on January 2, Duquense has only beaten George Washington and Fordham, while losing to Dayton, Davidson, and George Washington.
As I mentioned above, they also lost their floor general in Sincere Carry.
Furthermore, the Dukes had to travel straight from Dayton to Olean. Coach Schmidt referenced that this quick turnaround had more of a mental strain on his guys than anything. I am sure the same can be said for Duquense.
With the Bonnies playing well and Duquense in a weird position, I like the Bonnies to defend their home floor tomorrow night on national television. I’ll take Mark Schmidt’s club to win by eight, 75-67.