Duquesne Coach Ron Everhart
St. Bonaventure snapped visiting Duquesne’s 12 game winning streak with a thrilling 64-62 win in front of a packed house at the Reilly Center, but did they do more than just beat the league leaders?
In a game that Bona refused to lose and Duquesne refused to win, Michael Davenport hit his first three point basket just 25 seconds into the game and he drilled his last with just 1.6 seconds remaining. Yet in between, this game might have revealed that the Atlantic 10 shouldn’t be expected to be as productive in the NCAA tournament next month.
Duquesne came into Bonaventure in the midst of their most successful campaign in more than a decade. The Dukes hadn’t lost on the road since Dec. 4. They were averaging almost 82 points a game. Their backcourt tandem of T. J. McConnell and Mike Talley are three point masters and boasted an assist to turnover ratio of better than two to one. McConnell is a five time A10 Rookie of the Week and was touted by one Pittsburgh scribe before the game as a can’t miss NBA prospect.
But when the dust had settled, Duquesne’s win streak was over and they were no longer undefeated in the conference. It took the Dukes less than five minutes to erase a four point half-time deficit. They had a bunch of second half chances to put Bona away but couldn’t make the clutch plays when they would have counted. It would be convenient but assign the Duquesne defeat to the Bonnies’ defensive effort but anyone who has seen Bona play this year knows that defense is not their strong suit. They still seem bewildered by the simple pick-and-roll that Duquesne used frequently but the Dukes’ long-range game deserted them. They barely topped 25% shooting for three pointers (7 for 26 attempts). They were only marginally better overall, hitting just 35.8% of their shots.
B. J. Monteiro was a standout for the Dukes hitting for 17 points while Damien Saunders chipped in with 16. Bill Clarke tallied 15. But Duquesne starts a small lineup and unless they regain a shooting touch that carries through the A-10 tournament, their season won’t go beyond the middle of March.
Bona continues to improve and if Coach Mark Schmidt finds a true point guard who understands that getting the ball to 20-point-a-game scorer Andrew Nicholson is his primary function, Bona will get even better. After Davenport opened the game with a trio of three pointers, Nicholson took over in the first half, using his exceptionally long arms to go over, under, and around Duquesne defenders. After the UMass zone defense gave Bona fits the previous week. One might have thought Duquesne coach Ron Everhart might have sought similar success, but he went straight man-to-man and didn’t have answer for Nicholson, who hit six of seven shots in the first 20 minutes.
Bonaventure itself provided an answer, getting the ball to Nicholson for only five second-half shots that produced only three points from the lanky Canadian and those all came at the foul line. Bonaventure guards need to be thinking Nicholson first, shots second, and Coach Schmidt needs to be designing some schemes to make it a little easier for Nicholson to get the ball. That’s not the case now as Nicholson earns every point and every rebound against repeated double and triple teams.
Senior Ogo Adegboye struggled again, turning the ball over eight times. The final time could have been a dagger in the heart of Bona chances. Adegboye inexplicably threw an inbound pass to no one with just nine seconds left and Bona trailing by one but T. J. McConnell turned it right back over with an ill-advised pass. That set up Davenport’s final three pointer and the biggest win for the Bonnies in the Schmidt era.
On the bright side for Bonaventure, freshman Matthew Wright continues to impress as he gains more confidence that comes with more playing time. After finishing the non conference portion of the season 1 for 21 in three point attempts, Wright notched 15 points in 23 minutes for the Bonnies. In conference play, Wright has improved to a 57.1% shooting percentage and is hitting 50% of his threes in the last four A-10 games. You have to wonder how much longer he can get limited playing time with Adegboye struggling.