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Game Recap: St.Bonaventure 60 Princeton 53

Bonnies Ride Nicholson’s Near Triple Double to 7 point Win

Freshman Ties School Record with 8 blocks

Game Summary: St. Bonaventure has in recent years, been one of the worst shot blocking teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference. On this night however, it was the rejection that propelled them to a seven point win over the Princeton Tigers on Saturday night. The Bonnies blocked ten shots,  Andrew Nicholson eight of them, sending the Tigers to a 2-4 record. With the win, the Brown and White moved over .500 to 4-3 and 2-1 on their home floor of the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies also turned a previous weakness into a strength down the stretch, hitting on six straight free throws over the last 3:05. Nicholson and Ray Blackburn combined to hit the six freebies, and combined with a Jonathan Hall lay up with .59 seconds left, the Bonnies turned a 52-53 deficit, into a 60-53 final score. Princeton was held scoreless over the last 3:05, after Patrick Saunders connected on a jumper to give the Tigers a 53-52 lead over the home Bonnies.

The game was marked with sloppy play, and poor shooting. In the first half, the Bonnies shot just 32% from the field, and the Tigers 40%. The first half saw the Bonnies trail by as many as 13 points, and also saw the team shot 2-12 from three and 2-8 from the line. Princeton used a 2-3 and 1-2-2 zone defense to stifle the Bonnies outside shooting.

In the second half, the Bonnies use the dribble to get to the rim and finish easy baskets. Blackburn was very effective, getting to the line 10 times and hitting nine free throws. His shooting was not great at 4-10 from the field, but his ability to get to and finish at the line was critical in the second half where he scored 13 points. Nicholson rejected seven shots in the half, and scored ten points and pulled down seven rebounds. Chris Matthews never got going, he was 0-10 from the field and 0-8 from three.

The Bonnies turned a six point halftime deficit into a seven point win. They outscored the Tigers by 13 points after the break, out rebounded them by 6 boards in the game, and forced 13 turnovers.

It was a three man show for the Brown and White tonight as Blackburn, Nicholson and Hall combined for 51 of the teams 60 points. Thomas, Cook and Davenport combined for the other nine points. It marked the first time Matthews was held scoreless on the year.

Bonnies Player of the Night: Andrew Nicholson who has won his third straight Rookie of the Week Award. The Freshman collected 16 points, grabbed 9 rebounds and blocked a St. Bonaventure record tying 8 shots. Nicholson also hit on 8 of 11 free throws, and hit 4 big ones down the stretch within the last three minutes. Nicholson put on one of the best individual defensive performances you will ever see, swatting 7 shots in the second half.

Unsung Hero of the Game: Tyler Benson. Benson had a great offensive rebound with 4:144 left to play which eventually lead to a foul on Princeton guard Nick Lake (9 points on three long balls) which was his 5th of the game. Benson had a great steal in the second half reading a lob pass into the post. Although Benson hasn’t brought much to the table in terms of points this year, he continues to play extremely hard and with a blue collar attitude. Benson collected 4 rebounds and had one assist in his 12 minutes of action.

Run of the Game: The final 3:05 of the game proved to be where the Bonnies made their mark. Princeton kicked off the game with an 8-0 run, and the Bonnies closed the contest with a 8 point run of their own. During that span, the Bonnies hit on 6-6 from the line, and got a Jonathan Hall lay up as well. Blackburn hit two of the free throws, and Nicholson hit 4-4. A stat that has probably cost the Bonnies a game or two this year, was not a negative sidebar tonight.

Individual Stat Line of the Game: Again, Nicholson. His 16, 9 and 8 was just a thing of beauty. At halftime, I was caught thinking to myself, ‘I didn’t drive six hours from Jersey to watch this team lose a game to Princeton.” But as the second half rolled on Andrew Nicholson fired up the crowed and put on one of the best performances I’ve seen in the RC. Andrew started the second half with a first possession dunk, and then hit one of two free throws the next time down after getting fouled. On the ensuing defensive possession, Andrew blocked two shots. The rest of it, will now be in the record books along with Caswell Cyrus.

3 Things we Liked:

  • Andrew Nicholson’s incredible defensive performance. Especially in the 2nd half.
  • How hard Jonathan Hall goes to the offensive glass.
  • Bonnies defensive on Princeton’s guard Doug Davis who didn’t score until 5:18 left in the game.

3 Things we Did Not Like:

  • The current shooting slump of Chris Matthews. Matthew’s is just 8 for his last 36 since his first two games where he connected on ten threes. He was 0-10 from the field tonight.
  • The play of Malcolm Eleby. Malcolm had a rough night, he did not score, had no assists, four fouls and four rebounds in 25 minutes. Eleby was just 0-2 from the field, air-balling his only three point attempt.
  • Three point shooting, 2-17. Yikes.

Impressive Bonnies Team Stats:

  • Ten blocks as a team, Hall connecting on the other two Andrew didn’t get.
  • The 62% from the line! Not great, but a 5% increase from the current 57% average the team was shooting.
  • 6-6 from the line in the final 3:05. Won the game for the Bonnies.
  • Held Princeton to 32% shooting.
  • Defense on Doug Davis. Davis finished with 2 points, and did not make a shot all game. Great job by the Bonnies guards locking up their freshman scorer.

Negative Bonnies Team Stats:

  • 2-17 from three. That is 11.8% for those of you Princeton fans who can do the math in your heads.
  • 32% shooting in the first half.
  • The 11 turnovers were a season low, which is good, but we’d like to see more then 9 assists.

Parting Thoughts: I declared in my game preview that the Bonnies would win this game, and they did, taking care of business in the final three minutes. I didn’t say we would win by 40, just that we would win.

I’ve already waxed poetic on Nicholson so I”ll move on to the rest of the team here. Obviously Chris Matthews is mired in a deep shooting slump, but I think he will break out next weekend against MES. Hall continues to lead the team in scoring, doing it in a variety of different ways, including crashing the glass like a madman. Blackburn packed a nice scoring punch for the Bonnies as well tonight, doing so by getting to the rim off the dribble and in transition. Thomas took a step back after a great game vs. Canisuis, and Eleby and Carter didn’t bring a whole lot to the table either. Really it was a three man show tonight.

This was the type of game all of us expected the Bonnies to win and they did. No matter the style or the final score, they played a disciplined team and found a way to win a game that they trailed for nearly all of it. That type of execution may not pan out in league play, but Saturday night it was good enough, combined with a good second half effort.

Canisius was an ugly loss, and aside from Andrew’s play, this game was the definition of an ugly win. But, as a Bonnie fan, there is no such thing as an ugly win. Any win is beautiful.

Looking Ahead: The Bonnies get another full week off before taking on Maryland Eastern-Shore next Saturday at the Reilly Center. MES will enter the game with a 1-5 record, having only defeated NJIT by four points, who is currently riding the nations longest loosing streak in division one men’s basketball. The Hawks are averaging just 48 points per game offensively and have yet to win a road game this season. They currently have the least amount of wins in the MEAC Conference, tied with Florida A&M. It is the Bonnies middle game of a trio of straight contests at the RC. They wrap up the set next Wednesday against St. Francis PA.

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  1. Bonafan88

    Hey, are you guys planning on covering the women’s team too, or just the men. Just wondering…

  2. Ian,
    Your blog continues to be a fantastic read. Glad you made the 6 hr drive to be able to share your first hand observations. Your coverage provides insight as well as a terrific summary of the imprtant stats.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. ianrnolan Post author

    Thanks for the kind words Bill…

    I wish I could make the trip more often, but being just months out of college and having my first real job, taking dozens of personal days to go to Olean probably won’t be the best idea in the world.

  4. Bonnies09

    I second Bonafan88’s comment. The women are 6-1, and just upset #21/24 Michigan St. today. Even if its a paragraph it’d be cool if you guys gave them some recognition too.