Bonnies advance to A-10 semifinals
RICHMOND, Va. — Mark Schmidt loves approaching every game with a singular focus.
In a normal year, that’s hard to do during conference tournaments when teams can play as many as five games in consecutive days.
This is anything but a normal year.
Couple that with the fact that St. Bonaventure earned a double-bye and the Atlantic 10 championship game isn’t until next Sunday, and things might be lining up perfectly for the top-seeded Bonnies.
Schmidt’s team began its Atlantic 10 tournament run early Friday afternoon with an impressive 75-59 quarterfinal victory over No. 9 Duquesne at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University.
St. Bonaventure finished the day 1-0.
“The most important time of the day today was 11 (a.m.) to 1 (p.m.),” Schmidt said. “Our focus was all on Duquesne; if it wasn’t we weren’t going to win.”
Big-man Osun Osunniyi led the Bonnies with 18 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocked shots, drawing the praises of Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot.
“What makes them most difficult is the big guy at the rim. That makes them different than most people in the league. … He’s one of the best shot blockers in America. The number doesn’t matter, it’s how many he changes and the psychological effect of having him at the rim,” Dambrot said. “He’s just a good team, winning guy. That changes them. … That guy is a huge difference maker.”
Guard Dominick Welch added 18 points and nine rebounds.
“Offense is fickle. … Dom is a really good shooter,” Schmidt said. ” … Those guys are always in the gym. … We’ve got good shooters. When they’re open, they have confidence that they can knock them down.”
The Dukes were led by Michael Hughes’ 15 points to go along with eight rebounds while Tavian Dunn-Martin and Tyson Acuff each had 12 points.
Marcus Weathers had just 6 points on 2 of 11 shooting.
“Weathers and Hughes are big, strong kids inside,” Schmidt said. “I thought our guys did a decent job against them today.”
St. Bonaventure dominated the first half and led 40-19 at the break — Duquesne’s lowest scoring output in four seasons under head coach Keith Dambrot. The Dukes made just seven field goals and turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 14 points for the Bonnies.
“I thought we got off to a really good start,” Schmidt said. “Duquesne is a really physical team and we thought the team that team that could control the paint was the team that was going to win.”
Duquesne opened the second half on a 20-7 run that included 12 straight points in a span of a minute and 29 seconds.
“I thought we lost some focus. We got lackadaisical and loose with the ball,” Schmidt said. “Duquesne upped its pressure a little bit and we didn’t handle it well for four, five or six minutes.”
The spurt ended with a Toby Okani dunk that turned into a four-point play when St. Bonaventure reserve Alpha Okoli left the Bonnies’ bench, was assessed a technical foul and Acuff knocked down a pair of free throws. Schmidt called a timeout following the dunk and the resulting delay as the referees sorted through the ensuing action seemed to slow Duquesne’s momentum.
“He told us to keep our composure,” Osunniyi said was Schmidt’s message to the team. “We knew they were going to make a run because they are a good team.”
The Bonnies immediately went on a 17-3 run that included Jaren Holmes twice single-handedly breaking through the Dukes’ full-court pressure and scoring — first on a mid-range jumper and then on a dunk. Osunniyi followed with a putback dunk and Welch hit a 3-pointer with 9:32 remaining that pushed St. Bonaventure’s lead back up to 17.
“I thought ‘Shoon’ was terrific,” Schmidt said, “offensively, but more importantly defensively, blocking shots.”
Osunniyi followed a bucket from Duquesne’s Amari Kelly with another dunk and a bucket in the paint before Welch pushed the lead back up to 21 on his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 5:52 remaining.
“We helped up too much, which is bad discipline. We also got beat at the point of attack, which is bad discipline,” Dambrot said. “We were chasing the game as well. Once we chased the game, that’s going to happen a little bit. It’s a double-edged sword when you chase the game. We chased the game, we put ourselves in a bad hole and we got dunked on because of it.”
The Bonnies will look to go 2-0 this evening with a 6 p.m. tip-off against No. 4 Saint Louis back at the Siegel Center.
“We didn’t come here to go 1-0,” Schmidt said. “We came here to go 2-0. We’re halfway there.”
NOTES: Duquesne freshman Chad Baker, the Dukes’ leading scorer in a come-from-behind victory over No. 8 Richmond on Thursday, was injured less than three minutes into the game and finished with 2 points in 10 minutes. … St. Bonaventure led in points off turnovers, 25-15; second-chance points, 17-4; and points in the paint, 50-30.
Weathers 2-11 1-1 6, Baker 1-3 0-0 2, Hughes 5-10 5-7 15, Dunn-Martin 5-10 2-3 12, Okani 2-8 0-0 5, Acuff 3-12 4-4 12, Austin 1-2 0-0 3, Bekelja 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly 1-3 0-1 2, Harris 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-61 12-16 59.
ST. BONAVENTURE (75)
Adaway 5-14 2-2 12, Osunniyi 9-13 0-0 18, Lofton 4-11 2-4 11, Welch 7-15 0-1 18, Holmes 6-11 1-1 14, Vasquez 1-1 0-0 2, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-65 5-8 75.
Halftime–St. Bonaventure led, 40-19. 3-point goals–Duquesne 5-20 (Weathers 1-4, Baker 0-1, Dunn-Martin 0-4, Okani 1-3, Acuff 2-6, Austin 1-2), St. Bonaventure 6-23 (Adaway 0-3, Lofton 1-6, Welch 4-10, Holmes 1-4). Total rebounds–St. Bonaventure 40 (Osunniyi 14), Duquesne 36 (Okani 9). Assists–St. Bonaventure 19 (Osunniyi 6), Duquesne 10 (Dunn-Martin 6). Total fouls–St. Bonaventure 15, Duquesne 11. Technical fouls–St. Bonaventure 1 (Okoli).