With Thanksgiving weekend complete (and some extra “holiday weight” adding inches to my waist as I write this), The St. Bonaventure Bonnies have THANKfully (pun) restored a bit of faith in myself and an entire fanbase that they are, in fact, the “real deal” we were hoping for coming into the season. Below are some positives, negatives, and overall thoughts on SBU’s performance in the Emerald Coast Classic…
Obviously, the huge win over the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night was crucial! I was in attendance a couple weeks back when the Bonnies blew the home opener to an inferior Niagara team. Although this Maryland win won’t completely neutralize that loss, it makes up for it a little bit. If anything, I feel more justified in saying, “The Niagara game was their first game, with no Jay Adams, they only lost by two, and hey—they beat Maryland two weeks later!” Ah, the struggles of rooting for a small school team that the selection committee never wants to acknowledge…these are the types of things we have to hang our hat on.
The emergence of Izaiah Brockington. I can’t be the only Bonnies fan who is terrified for the day next year when Jaylen Adams has fled Olean, NY for a ritzy job in a major NBA city. But the way the freshman point guard has emerged this season, particularly in the TCU loss on Saturday night (20 points on 5-9 shooting, 4-8 from three-point land), my mind is a bit more at ease for the future. This kid can play, he’s a better shooter than I realized, but best of all – he’s not afraid of the “big moment”. Many of his made field goals against TCU came in moments of the game where SBU desperately needed a bucket.
LaDarien Griffin has continued his solid play. Griffin is beginning to remind me of the next Denzel Gregg. A shot blocking machine with a nice touch around the rim. He played more minutes during the Emerald Coast Classic than any other Bonnie and with success (Friday: 8 points, 5 boards, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal. Saturday: 13 points, 5 boards, 2 steals, and a block). I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see Griffin’s season coming. He never struck me as someone who had this kind of game-altering ability in him. But just like Gregg, he appears to be peaking in his junior year and if this pace continues, he may end up being just as valuable as a Matt Mobley when all is said and done, considering the weakness of SBU’s front court.
Courtney Stockard getting back to form. With Stockard being a scratch from the previous two Bonnies wins over Jackson State & Maryland-Eastern Shore, I was a bit nervous that he may never reach his full potential. But, just like Brockington, Stockard emerged from the Emerald Coast Classic a new player. Friday night against Maryland, Stockard hit the game winning layup in the closing seconds – reminiscent of Marcus Posley over Davidson a couple years back. Stockard averaged 15 points on the weekend, which was much needed as Jaylen Adams continues to rehab his injured ankle. But perhaps more surprising than his scoring prowess, Stockard led the Bonnies in rebounding in both games (5 against Maryland and 8 against TCU). With the Bonnies seemingly losing the rebounding battle on a nightly basis, Stockard’s rebounding ability is a welcomed surprise.
Matt Mobley not starting the game against Maryland. When I tuned in on Friday night and saw the courtside announcer announce that Mobley wasn’t starting due to lateness to a team meeting, my hopes sank. As a Senior, Mobley just cannot pull stunts like this, especially in must-win games like that one. Without Jaylen Adams, Mobley knows that he is the biggest source of offense and his teammates rely on him to provide it. Luckily, the Bonnies held their own in the early-going without him thanks to a hot start from Josh Ayeni. Mobley would go on to have two lukewarm performances (Friday: 16 points on 3-12 shooting, 0-5 from three. Saturday: 18 points on 3-11 shooting, and missing three key free throws). No one needs Jay Adams back more than Matt Mobley – Adams’ presence will free Mobley up and teams won’t focus primarily on stopping him.
Amadi Ikpeze continues to disappoint. I don’t think I’m being too harsh when I say that Ikpeze doesn’t belong on the same court as the rest of the team. He’s just too slow, too tentative, and not aggressive enough in the slightest. He’s the Bonnies’ biggest player yet combined for just two rebounds (and five fouls) in 25 minutes of action over the weekend. SBU was outrebounded handily in both games, giving up second chance opportunity after second chance opportunity (Friday: 36-29 in Maryland’s favor. Saturday: 38-23 in TCU’s favor). The “bigs” have got to play better going forward or this issue could become an achilles heel for the Bonnies.
Where in the world is Idris Taqqee? For someone who’s typically filled up stat sheets in the past, his are looking pretty bare thus far this season. There were stretches during the Emerald Coast Classic where I legitimately didn’t realize Taqqee was even on the floor. Friday night against Maryland, Idris put up: 0 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, and 4 personal fouls in 18 minutes of action. On Saturday against TCU: 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 2 personal fouls in 27 minutes. The Bonnies don’t necessarily need him to score with Mobley, Stockard, Ayeni, Griffin, and Brockington doing most of the damage, but Taqqee has got to start helping his team in other ways. I’m confident that the Senior will turn things around as the season wears on.
As much as the fan in me (who knew SBU needed a win desperately) hated hearing it initially, I commend Coach Mark Schmidt on sticking to his guns and not starting Matt Mobley in Friday’s matchup for breaking team rules. I’d bet there’s a lot of coaches out there who wouldn’t have the nerve to sit their best (healthy) player through the first TV time out in a game against a marquee opponent, which could do wonders in rectifying a brutal loss just two weeks previous. There’s a reason why Schmidt is universally respected for getting the most out of his players and they always seem to develop so well over their tenure at St. Bonaventure.
Jaylen Adams watch – unless I’m mistaken, I didn’t see Adams in a walking boot while on the sidelines in Florida. A welcomed visual for sure, coupled with the TV announcers claiming that Adams is hoping to begin practicing this week, and my excitement is off the charts. The fact that the Bonnies defeated Maryland and kept pace most of the way against TCU without Adams is incredible. With Jaylen back in the lineup (hopefully) soon, St. Bonaventure’s outlook heading into conference play is great. With a major win under their belt, a “down year” in the A-10, and Jaylen Adams getting back to 100%, Bonnies fans across the country have to be climbing the walls with anticipation for a successful campaign.
Wednesday’s game against Siena (1-4) is one of those MAAC games that I hate, similar to the Niagara trap earlier in the year. But SBU’s confidence must be high coming off a solid performance in the Emerald Coast Classic. Plus, they’ll be looking to rectify their bad loss from two seasons ago at Siena (perhaps the loss that kept them out of the NCAA tournament?). The Bonnies just must keep finding success in these winnable games in the coming weeks to gear up for A-10 conference play.