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Preview: St. Bonaventure (6-3) vs. Eastern Michigan (2-7)

THE GAME: St. Bonaventure (6-3) will look to extend their winning streak to four games Saturday at 4:00, as they travel to Eastern Michigan. EMU is just 2-7 this season, and has yet to defeat a Division One team, only beating Wayne State and Marygrove. EMU has dropped four games to BCS schools this year, registering losses to Purdue, Georgia, St. John’s and Michigan. In their most recent game, the Eagles dropped a 91-60 decision at Michigan. They are playing this season without their senior point guard in Carlos Medlock, a key cog on their team.

This game is not about EMU though, this game is about the Bonnies. Bonaventure picked up a very unimpressive 73-66 win Wednesday night over a SFPA team that lost to Iona by 17, LIU by 15, and American by 21. The Bonnies came out flat, and generally played flat for 40 minutes. Coach Schmidt made comments after the game speaking to his team being lucky to walk away with a win, and he was right. If the Bonnies hadn’t played a team such as SFPA, they would have lost. They will need to bring their own energy and passion on the road Saturday to EMU.

EMU is plain and simple a team the Bonnies should beat. There is no way for me to sugarcoat it or any reason to beat around the bush. Canisius was a bad team, Princeton and St. Francis PA were bad teams, and so EMU certainly falls into that category as well.  If there ever was a winnable road game for this program, this has got to be it. This is not to say I am sure the Bonnies will win this game, but they should win this game.

That is why this game is about the Bonnies and not the Eagles.  If they value their possessions, play solid defense and rebound the ball like they can, they will win this game. That is all there is to it. They are a better and more talented team, so if they play hard and execute, they will come away being 7-3, and I don’t care who they have played, that sounds damm nice to me given where we were just a few years ago. This schedule was created to give this team a chance to win games, and gain confidence before league play. So far, they have done a decent job of that; they need to win Saturday to continue.

One final note here: The Bonnies have not had a 4 game winning streak since the 2001-2002 season.Last week in Fact or Fiction, I predicted they would win four in a row this year, now is their chance.

THE OPPONENT: Eastern Michigan is a team in search of a win to turn their season around. The Eagles have the fewest wins in the MAC Conference with 2 victories, but since neither of them have come against a D1 squad, they might as well be 0-7 or 0-9. The Eagles are lead by forward Brandon Bowdry, who averages 14.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Bowdry is not a bruiser, but at 6’6″ and 229 pounds, he is not a lightweight on the blocks either (a Jordan Morris type). He is the Eagles best scoring option, and is shooting 50% from the field this year vs. 42% last season. Another forward, Justin Dobbins is second on the team in scoring at 11.6 per game. Dobbins shoots 55% from the field, and has scored in double figures six times this year. He put up 22 and 7 on Georgia, so we know he can play a bit. See Inside the Number for a closer look at the Eagles season.

After dropping six in a row, the Eagles finally got their second win of the year against Wayne State. The good feelings were short lived as noted before, so they will be looking to beat a team from the A10, and get their season going in the right direction.

ODDS AND ENDS

DO IT ALL HALL-Jonathan Hall has keyed the Bonnies offense thus far, scoring in double figures in every game, averaging 15.2 pounds and 5.8 rebounds per game. Hall has lead the Bonnies in scoring four times, assists three times, steals twice and rebounding and blocks once each.

HEATING UP, COOL DOWN- After knocking down 5-6 threes in the Maryland Eastern Shore game, Chris Matthews went back into his slump last time out again SFPA, scoring only 7 points, and knocking down just 1 of 7 from three. As I said before, this team needs another scorer, not a shooter. Matthews has to really make an effort to get to the rim, and stop settling for 24 footers. I have no problem with him shooting an open three, but Chris does need to start thinking about putting the ball on the floor a bit more, after all his is the 2 guard.

DYNAMIC DUO-Current back-up point guard Ray Blackburn has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, after scoring just 19 points in his first four games combined. Malcolm Eleby continues to take care of the basketball, dishing out 26 assists to 11 turnovers on the year. The duo is combined to score 35 points last game, as Blackburn scored 22 and Eleby chipped in a season high 13 points, with 2 assists and 0 turnovers. The combo has been working well, giving the team an quick, offensive minded point to push the pace, and a stronger, more durable and level-handed guard to limit turnovers and defend bigger guards.

SECOND TO NONE- Bonaventure has been privy to some excellent bench play this year, outscoring their oppositions bench in every game this season. The Bonnies bench is averaging 27.2 points, and has scored over 30 points three times this season.Ray Blackburn is the top scorer of the bench for the Bonnies, scoring 10.9 points (3rd on team) off the pine for Coach Schmidt.

RECLAIMING HIS SPOT-Andrew Nicholson will look to rebound after being held in check by UMES as well as St. Francis PA. last weekend. Nicholson won three straight rookie of the week awards before loosing out last time to Fordham point man Jio Fontan. He will look to rebound Saturday. He ranks 2nd in scoring and 1st in rebounding and blocks amongst league rookies.Nicholson currently averages 10.2 points and 6.0 rebounds (2nd on team).

THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE-After a slow start to the year, Maurice “Mo” Thomas has started to turn it up of late.  Thomas averaged only 5 points and 3 rebounds in his first four contests in just 9 minutes a game. In his past four games however, Thomas has turned over a new leaf. Mo has averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes of work during those games. Thomas registered a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds his last time out vs. St. Francis PA.

EAGLES INSIDE THE NUMBERS:

  • 0 wins vs. Division One teams this year, as noted before in the preview
  • 17 Turnovers per game to 12 opponent turnovers, -4.6 turnovers per game
  • + 4.8 rebounding margin per game
  • 62% free throw shooting team
  • 43% from the field, 40% field goal percentage defense
  • -1.3 scoring margin on the year. Don’t be deceived. This is offset because of a 119-48 win to start the year.
  • 4.4 Blocks per game
NEXT TIME OUT FOR THE BONNIES: The Bonnies will head back to the RC for a tilt with rival Niagara on Tuesday, December 23rd. Niagara is 8-2, and is scoring the ball at 76 points per game. The Purple Eagles have only lost to Villanova and Akron. Check back here Monday for the 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.