Bonnies Erase 18 Point Deficit vs. UMass, Earn win #20
The Result: The Bonnies tried their best to give every one of their fans a heart attack after trailing UMass by 18 points in the first half, 10 at halftime and had to have a buzzer-beating three pointer by Donte Clarke waved off…. but SBU downed UMass 85-83 on Saturday afternoon in the Reilly Center.
Bonaventure looked like a team trying their hardest to eliminate themselves from NCAA bubble conversations in the opening half as UMass raced out to an 18 point lead on the heels of transition offense, turnovers, and hot three point shooting. The Minutemen were 8-15 from three in the first half, and shot 66% from the field. SBU struggled to stop UMass in transition (10-0 fast break points) and played sloppy, uninspired basketball. Everything was going wrong for the Bonnies in a half that reminded me of the 2013 senior day home loss to Fordham that knocked SBU out of the A10 tournament completely.
In a game the Bonnies could not afford to lose, all appeared to be lost at times in the opening half.
But a 50 point second period was just enough (and the benefit of a close call) to edge UMass and remain alive and well in all NCAA conversations.
In the final 20 Bonnies came out of the locker room and used a quick run to even the score within five minutes. Whatever message or likely threats (we kid) coach Schmidt made in the locker room they worked immediately. It appeared as if the Bonnies traded souls at the break because the second half team was completely different. Maybe the staff threatened to take their remaining Bona Bucks.
From there, the teams traded blows and leads for the duration of the second half until the Bonnies made enough plays, and had .1 of a second on their side. Trailing by two with just under five seconds left, UMass perfectly executed a full court play and got Donte Clarke a good look at a three pointer. But, Clarke had to shot fake and by the time got up his shot the buzzer had sounded just as he released the ball. In real time I thought there was no way he got it off, but watching the reply I wasn’t so sure. Either way, SBU showed great toughness and grit in the senior day victory. It’s not easy to win games you’re supposed to week after week (especially when NCAA pressure continues to mount) but save the La Salle game this team has done just that.
The Analysis: What a thriller. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as UMass ran their final play and in waiting for the zebras to make a decision on the three pointer. SBU dug themselves a major hole but climbed out of it in the second half thanks to some stellar individual play, and a much greater sense of intensity and urgency from the team. Again, you have to credit Schmidt for the pep talk, adjustments or whatever the hell happened in that 15 minute span.
Aside from Marcus Posley (22 points, 6 assists 7-9 shooting) whose incredible lay-up and one with under a minute left gave SBU the lead for good, SBU was led by another stellar guard today not named Jay Adams (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4-10 shooting).
Idris Taqqee played the game of his life today on a day when Mark Schmidt and company needed every single point.
Taqqee posted a career high 19 points and made 5-7 three pointers. Time and time again Taqqee canned a huge shots to keep the Bonnies within striking distance before Posley’s heroics and Dion Wright’s rebound and free throw won the game. It’s great to see Taqqee have a game like this. He’s done so much to help the team win that goes unnoticed and tonight, and tomorrow he will be lauded for his efforts.
Also, give major credit to Denzel Gregg who didn’t do anything in the first half but finished the game with nine points and six rebounds. Gregg was 7-8 at the line and made up for his poor 1-7 shooting effort. His energy was a difference in this game, no question.
Oh by the way it was another ho-hum game for Dion Wright who finished with 21 points and 11 boards on 7-13 shooting. Such a Dion-line in his final game in the RC. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
I thought SBU did a poor job all game of handling Trey Davis (26 points) and Jabarie Hinds (25 points) who really attacked the defense and penetrated almost at will. UMass’ ability to get out in transition and score the ball quickly kept them in the game. When they needed a bucket at the end of the game UMass could count of those guys to get to the line with ease. I will also say though that UMass shot it very well today, many shots contested, the one 30 footer inside of the final media timeout was a throw-up-your-hands type of shot…sometimes it happens.
UMass finished the game with 24 points of turnovers and 12 fast break points.
Credit SBU’s better defense in the second half though as UMass was 8-15 from deep in the opening frame but was just 3-9 after the break. Also, how about the Bonnies work on the defensive glass? Just a few games ago we watched in horror as SBU was dominated on the glass. Today, against a bigger club, the Bonnies held UMass to just 3 offensive rebounds. That blue collar work was huge in a game where a single offensive board could have lost the game.
UMass’ Rashaan Holloway (10 points, 4 rebounds) was a load inside. He may be the biggest basketball player I’ve ever seen. Derrick Woods and Jordan Tyson were made to look silly at times by the mammoth center.
Finally, 40 minutes each for Jay and Dion, 39 for Posely…these guys have been iron men this season beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. You cannot say enough about what these three have given the team. As good as I, and most thought they’d be in the fall, there’s no way you thought they’d be this good.
What it Means: The win means the Bonnies have clinched no worse than the four seed in Brooklyn. SBU gets a double-bye and plays Friday at some point (get your bus pass and tickets now). The Bonnies have won 20 games in the regular season for just the 6th time ever and first since 1976-1977. SBU improves to 13-2 at home, one win shy of the program record for home wins (14 in 1976-1977). The win sets the program record for conference victories. SBU stays in all NCAA conversations and hosts St. Joe’s on Wednesday night in Rochester in a game that COULD decide the Conference Champion. The last time SBU was a four seed and had a bye they won the A10 Tournament in 2012.
What’s Up Next: SBU will venture to Rochester to take on St. Joseph’s (23-5, 12-3) in a game that could honestly be called one of the Bonnies biggest ever regular season games. Not in the Mark Schmidt era or in the last ten years, but ever. A win would give SBU a sweep of the league’s now first place team and a team with an RPI of 25. It would be hard to imagine the Bonnies being left out of the NCAA field if they finish this next week 2-0, finish top 3 in the A10 and have an RPI in the 20s….but, one game at a time. St. Joe’s hosts St. Louis tomorrow afternoon before prepping for the Bonnies.