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St. Bonaventure 71 vs. Mississippi State 76: Recap

Bonnies Battle, But Fall Short Against Bulldogs

Missed Free Throws Again Prove Large Down Stretch

By: Ryan Shannon

Game Summary: It seemed like a classic game at the Reilly Center.  74-71, Bonas needing a 3 pointer to tie with 7 seconds left.  Thoughts of 1999-2000 were racing in my head, as I remembered JR Bremer catching that pass in the corner and making that 3 pointer and knocking off the then ranked Temple Owls in the Reilly Center.  Then, I was quickly reminded that this was not the magical year of 1999-2000, as Bonas could not execute the play to get Chris Matthews a look at the 3, and ended up falling by five.

This was a game of runs, as the Bonnies had a large run to keep it close in the first half and a large run in the second as well.  In the first half, down 26-18, Bonas went on a 7-0 run to bring the game within one.  This run was sparked by Ray Blackburn, who shined tonight with 22 points and 4 assists.  The Bonnies then trailed 63-48 with 9:20 to play, but then went on a 23-8 run, capped off by a deep three pointer by Chris Matthews to tie the game at 71 with 1:52 left.  After that, the Bonnies would not score again, and ended up losing to the Bulldogs by 5.

The atmosphere was electric, as the crowd was pumped to see the first non-conference game that the Reilly Center has hosted in some time.  There was much anticipation coming into this game, as the Bonnies were coming off an impressive 64-63 victory on the road against Rutgers.  The Bonnies just could not score within the final 1:52, and with the rimming out of Malcolm Eleby’s fadeaway three-point attempt with 4 seconds left, the Bonnies saw their hopes of a second straight major upset evaporate.

Jarvis Varnado was the star tonight for Mississippi St., as he added 19 points with 12 rebounds and 6 blocks.  Ravern Johnson, in addition to his clutch offensive rebound and jumper with 22 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 3 point lead, had 18 points and 7 rebounds.  Mississippi St. dominated the glass, outrebounding the Bonnies 46-36 scoring 24 second chance points.  They also had balanced scoring, as 7 players had 6 points or more.

Bonnies Player of the Night: Ray Blackburn.  I thought I was seeing Tim Winn on the court.  The floor presence, the tenacity on defense, and oh ya, 22 huge points to keep us in the game.  I cannot say enough about his performance tonight, he was the heart and soul of our team out there, and at points it looked like he was single-handedly keeping us in the game.  What a great effort.  If he can continue to have efforts like this, watch out, the Bonnies may sneak up on some people in A-10 play.

Unsung Hero of the Game: Andrew Nicholson.  Playing against one of the best post players in the country, Andrew almost notched his second career double-double with 13 points and 9 rebounds.  He added 2 blocks as well.  This freshman continues to impress and reminds me of a young Caswell Cyrus, except much more developed offensively at this stage of his career.  Nicholson’s inside play has really given the Bonnies a scoring threat in the paint, and his ability to alter shots has shored up their interior defense.  Can’t say enough about this freshman.

Individual Stat Line of the Game: Ray Blackburn again.  6-11 from the field, 3-3 from the 3 point line, 7-8 from the free throw line, 4 assists, and if forced turnovers was a stat he’d have plenty.  He was one of the few tonight that hit his free throws, and his contribution to the game cannot be quantified by his stat line.  Came up huge.

3 Things we Liked

  1. The Crowd: Here’s a shoutout to the student section tonight.  When all-access was not working in the beginning (go figure), I had to listen to the game over the radio.  Problem was, I couldn’t understand anything Gary Nease was saying because of the voracity of the crowd.  It was great to have that back again.  The only two times I can remember the crowd being that loud over the five previous seasons was the St. Joseph’s game in 2003-2004 and the George Washington game in 2005-2006.  Keep it up Bonas students, you have no idea how much that kind of support means to the players during a game.  Bring the prestige back to the Reilly Center it had when Jay Bilas ranked it one of the 5 toughest places to play in the country.  Good work tonight.
  2. Ray Blackburn: What more can I say about his game? Was all over the floor tonight, managing and sparking the offense, tenacious on the defensive end, and just a leader, plain and simple.  Seemed like he could take SEC guards off the dribble at will.  So impressive.
  3. The Fight of this Team: Wow, what a difference two years makes.  Could anyone imagine that kind of effort two years ago?  At 26-18 with 9:56 to play in the first, this team could have folded.  Fought hard and grinded to make it a 2 point game at halftime.  At 63-49 with 9:20 left in the second half, this team could have folded it up.  Instead, they fight back and have a chance with their last possession to tie the game.  This team has bought in to Coach Schmidt’s philosophies, and when a team buys in like that, there is no telling how good they could be.  The Bonnies will definitely surprise some teams this year.

3 Things we Did Not Like:

  1. Free Throw Shooting: Plain and simple, to pull off an upset of this caliber, you must make free throws.  Shooting at a 60.9% clip on 14-23 just won’t cut it.  Mississippi St. was almost 78% with their free throw shooting.  Glaring difference in the game.  Early in the second half, Malcolm Eleby and Andrew Nicholson went 0-2 from the line each with Bonas within 5.  Just unacceptable. Bonas entered the game shooting just 55% from the stripe. Ouch!
  2. Help Defense: Granted that Mississippi St. is a very athletic team, but there simply were too many easy baskets tonight.  Coach Schmidt really needs to work on his team’s defensive rotation with all the switching and hedging that was going on on the perimeter.  This help defense not only caused players to be out of position leading to easy baskets, but led to numerous fouls and missed boxouts. This team needs to take more charges as well.  There were plenty of opportunities where players would foul or get out of the way when they could have sacrificed their body and taken a charge.  This occurred on both the fast break and within the half court.  Definitely something that needs to be worked out before conference play begins.
  3. Could Not Grab The Clutch Rebound:  At the end of the game, whenever it seemed like Bonas could have a possession to tie or take the lead, Mississippi St. would grab a clutch offensive rebound and get a putback or to the free throw line.  In particular, the offensive rebounds of Jarvis Varnado with 5:42 left to make it a 6 point game and Ravern Johnson with 0:22 left which made it a 3 point game significantly hurt our chances.  We grab that rebound with 0:22 left, and our last possession becomes a whole lot more manageable than it was.

Impressive Bonnies Team Stats:

  • Forced 24 Mississippi St. turnovers, with 9 steals.
  • 26 points off turnovers.
  • 4 players in double figures.

Negative Bonnies Team Stats:

  • 60.9 % free throw shooting.
  • 17 turnovers as compared to 11 assists.
  • 25 team fouls.  Need to work on that help defense and not leave your teammates out on islands.

Parting Thoughts: How far our program has come in under two years.  Even though tonight was a great effort and a good sign of where the program is heading, the fact of the matter is it is still a tough loss.  There are no moral victories in college basketball.  Need to rebound in time for the rivalry game with Canisius on Saturday.

Bonas needs to get a better look at the end of the game there.  Blackburn should not have been the man taking the ball out on that play.  Eleby should have been the initiator in that instance, with Blackburn and Matthews rolling off of those screens.  There were three people qualified on the floor to take that shot, Blackburn, Matthews, and Hall.  In addition, Malcolm should have known the situation.  With 7.8 seconds left, there is no need for a fadeaway three.  There is time to work the ball a little more.  With more experience under this team’s belt, this type of mistake will not happen.  This team is learning to win, and this is one of the growing pains of that experience.

This team needs to get more production out of Malcolm Eleby.  Fourteen fouls in his last three games.  One point tonight in 24 minutes.  In order to put five threats out on the floor at any given time, Malcolm must step his game up and become more assertive and confident.  At times, it looks like he doesn’t trust his athleticism.  Trust yourself Malcolm and play with confidence.  If we can get his game going, this team will be very tough to beat.

Bonas needs to bring back a student band.  At the law school I currently attend, barely any students go to the games, but we have a student band that adds so much to the experience.  At Bonas, there are a lot of students that go to the games, and a band would only make it that much better.  They don’t need to be great, just have something to add to the experience of the Reilly Center.

Finally, the prognosticators who picked us either 13th or 14th were wrong.  This team will be better than that, and be the most competitive team we’ve seen since the scandal-ridden year of 2003-2004.  This team can beat almost anybody on any given night, and tonight proved it against a team that won 23 games, 12 in the SEC last year.  Very impressive.

A closing quote to leave you all with….

Ray Blackburn on the game’s intensity
I was just waiting for that day when I got here and today was the first time I ever felt the floor shake. This place was crazy; I have never felt the floor shake before. It was great, but we didn’t get the win. I’d rather have the win.

What a great quote, that belongs in the media guide next year. The RC did a great job tonight and so did the Bonnies. It is a tough loss, but I am not disappointed whatsoever. Keep working, we’ll get there.

Looking Ahead: The Bonnies will travel to Buffalo on Saturday to battle longtime rival Canisius at HSBC Arena. Tip off is set for 7:00 PM. Canisius holds a 1-3 record entering the contest, having lost to Akron, Buffalo and Washington State. Their lone win was a 13 point victory over Long Island University. Amherst, NY native Chris Gadley currently leads the Golden Griffins in scoring at 17.3 points per game and is rebounding the ball well with 9.7 per game. 5’10” guard Frank Turner is averaging 16 points a game.

Check back with us Friday for a full game preview…

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.


  1. Bonadonna78

    It was a great game! Coach Schmidt makes no excuses…he admitted the team’s shortfalls resulted in the loss. Still I am watching a great team chemistry emerging…Nicholson is going to be amazing! Had we made some free throws and the officiating not dictated most of the first half, the outcome would be a win for the Bonnies! Kudos to the students and fans who were there tonite. We are on the verge of something special this year! Go Bonas…whip the Griffs!

  2. ianrnolan Post author

    All great points Bonaddonna78.

    Free throws have cost this team the chance at a 5-0 start. For a team that finished 21st in the nation in FT% last year, they have some practice to do…And having been to all of the practices last year, they are working on them believe me.

    Go Bonnies!

  3. Bonnies09

    Just a point to make: The Wellsville HS band was in the Reilly Center tonight and they were fantastic. They played good songs and were into the game. The HS bands do a great job whenever they play. The Allegany Alumni Band need to pick up their stuff, otherwise a HS band should be there all the time.

  4. West End Stench

    A 3-2 start is where I pegged us to be at this point, but I didn’t think we would do it in this manner.

    Beating Rutgers on their own court in overtime and being tied with Miss St. in the final minutes is so encouraging. The Reilly Center came back alive tonight (with the exception of those who sit behind the basket opposite the HOF room). We are going to pick up some big wins in the near future…this team is leaps and bounds better than any of Coach Tony’s squads.

    Go Bonas!

  5. ianrnolan Post author

    Thanks for all the comments and for reading the site! We are thrilled so many fans are checking us out! We’ll keep writing some good stuff for everyone, check back later tonight for a new article about Ryan Shannon’s top five games in the RC…

  6. NY Dem

    Hire Bill Bathurst from Hinsdale H. S. to teach free throw shooting. He once made something like 1,000 in a row at some national competition, or so the story goes. Retired from teaching Phys. Ed. now, his grandson Will (son of Kenny McFarland) is one of the ballboys, and Will is always winning free throw contests around the area. Guess who taught him ?

  7. NY Dem

    Do you have any quotes from the Miss State coach ? Couldn’t find any in the post-game articles. Curious to see what he thought of the amazing atmosphere at the RC last night.

    And you’re right, that Blackburn quote about the ‘floor shaking’ was great ! Even Gary Nease said that he could hardly hear anything, even through his headphones.

  8. ianrnolan Post author

    I searched for quotes on gobonnies, as well as the Mississippi State webpage and the Starkville newspapers myself and found nothing….I’m sure we will come across some and when we do I will link them for everyone.

  9. Bonafan88

    The MSU coach had nothing but praise for the team in his press conference. While he was aware of the crowd’s potential coming in, he was a bit surprised by the game itself. He was stunned when we told him that we were picked in the bottom half of the A-10 and said that he would be shocked if we didn’t make a top-half finish if the team keeps playing at this level. An extremely gracious coach who had absolutely nothing bad to say about the team.