The term ‘survive and advance’ is often used, especially this time of the year. On Friday, Saint Louis epitomized that mantra, edging St. Bonaventure 57-56 in the A10 quarterfinals at Capital One Arena in Washington. Saint Louis improved to 23-10 while the Bonnies fell to 20-9. Numbers and notes…
Possessions: 63 – A slower ‘rock fight’ tempo both coaches are comfortable with and expected.
Offensive efficiency: Saint Louis 90, St. Bonaventure 89- Points were not easy to come by. The two teams were below their A10 efficiency averages. Saint Louis shows 109 norm in A10 play while Bona checks in at 105.
Rebounds and turnovers were difference makers. Saint Louis won the battle of the boards by a 40-31 count. Billikens had 16 offensive boards, translating into 15 second chance points. Francis Okoro of Saint Louis did appreciable damage with a 14 point, game-high 12 rebound outing.
Bonnies forced Saint Louis into 17 turnovers for an exceptionally high 27% turnover rate. Bona committed 19 for a very commendable 16% rate. Problem was Bona did not take advantage of the turnovers they forced. On the game Bona had a 14-6 advantage on points off turnovers. An advantage, no doubt. Forcing 17 in a low possession game suggests Bona could have capitalized more in that area.
In a game with five ties and eight lead changes Bona rallied from 10 points down with 11 minutes remaining. In a low possession, premium on points affair as this one, the ten point lead Saint Louis enjoyed felt like 20. In the stretch, Osun Osunniyi gave Bona the lead with a shot in the paint with 84 seconds to play. Gibson Jimerson of Saint Louis canned a jumper to restore the lead for the Billikens. In the final seconds Kyle Lofton was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. Lofton, an 81% free throw shooter, missed both from the charity stripe. Saint Louis survived. And advanced.
A very tough loss for Bona. A heartbreaking scenario for Lofton. As coach Mark Schmidt said, “he (Lofton) has nothing to apologize for. Sometimes life’s not fair. We wouldn’t be the fourth seed without him.” Lofton, per Schmidt, virtually lives in the gym working on his game. What he has meant and contributed to the program these past four years has been immeasurable. Contributions on and off the floor. Lofton has been a model leader since day one. A four year captain he was first chosen to the captaincy his freshman year before even playing a game. Starting a team I would want a Kyle Lofton on my side as first choice. No apology needed indeed.
Leading the way for Bona was Jalen Adaway with 18 points. Jimerson (6 of 9 from three) led the way for Saint Louis with a game-high 20 points. Saint Louis shot 39% from the floor, 43% from three. Bona hit for 38% and just 25% from long distance.
Last three A10 tournaments these two teams met and decided things. In 2019 Saint Louis edged the Bonnies in another heartbreaker, the championship game at Barclays Center. There was no tournament in 2020. Last season the Bonnies handled Saint Louis in the semis en route to the A10 Tournament title. This season, it was Saint Louis with the upper hand and advancing.
“ We expected a tough, physical game. I have the greatest respect for ‘Schmitty” (Mark Schmidt), the great job he’s done and the program they have at St. Bonaventure…To lose the lead late and get back to win impressed with the effort hard fought to say the least…Every one talks the free throws but it’s a forty minute game. It came down to defense. We changed our defensive game plan from the first two times we played them. To hold down a team of St.Bonaventure’s caliber to 56 points shows our defensive effort.” Saint Louis coach Travis Ford
“A hard fought game. We didn’t execute as well but give our kids credit for fighting back late. Told the team those last seconds did not decide the outcome. The games is a number of possessions and those 40 minutes decide the final outcome. Proud of these guys and what they represent to their families and the program. I credit Saint Louis for making plays and beating us and wish them luck…Knew this game would be like this. In tournament games it’s more defensive oriented. Expected to be tough and physical. They (Saint Louis) did a really good job on ball screen defense.” – St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt