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EARLY HOLE BURIES BONNIES

The Reilly Center has never seen a home opener as putrid as this one.

St. Bonaventure gave up 16 straight points in the early going, fell behind by 21 after just 12 minutes and never caught up as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference lightweight Marist posted a surprising 74-58 victory Tuesday night.

The smallish semester-break crowd of 4,082 didn't boo their team -- although it would have been deserved. The fans just sat stone-faced and silent. There wasn't much to cheer for.

The Bonnies are 0-2 to start a season for the first time in nine years. They had been 37-1 in RC openers, losing only to Canisius by two points in 1994.

Freshman Isiah Carson scored the game's first basket after 31 seconds and the Bonnies then missed their next eight shots. Six minutes later, after a trio of Marist three-pointers, the visitors were ahead, 16-2.

And it got worse. The lead grew to 22-4, 26-6 and 29-8 before the Bonnies showed a pulse to get within 36-25 at halftime.

Asked if the start was his worst nightmare, second-year coach Anthony Solomon replied tersely: "You said that, I didn't."

Still, Solomon understood this was no way to make a first impression at home.

"We certainly dug ourselves a big hole," he said. "It does not help us in any way, shape or form to be playing from behind and it started quickly. We have to find a way to start off games better."

Bona was blown out, 73-49, Friday at Iona and fell behind early in that game as well. Its offense is struggling to build an identity in its first games since the graduation of star guard Marques Green.

The Bonnies, who play Canisius on Saturday in HSBC Arena, are averaging just 53.5 points in their two games. They're shooting just 30 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range. Opponents, meanwhile, are averaging 73.5 points and hitting 49.5 percent overall.

Marist was just 6-22 last year and is picked to finish ninth in the MAAC this year. But the Red Foxes are 2-1 under new coach Matt Brady, former top assistant at Saint Joseph's. Guard Jared Jordan led the Red Foxes with 22 points. Marist has improved from a 39 percent shooting team last year to 48.1 in three games.

"I've worked with guys who fight change but not one guy has fought what we brought to them," Brady said. "I might get credit for how guys shoot but they're the ones who should get credit for working on their shot during the summer when it was 95 degrees outside."

Junior college transfer Wade Dunston paced the Bonnies for the second straight game with 17 points. Guard Ahmad Smith added 15 and Patrick Lottin had 12 in 33 minutes off the bench in his first appearance following offseason knee surgery.

"Everybody had a lot of nervous energy since it was our first home game," the 6-foot-4 Dunston said. "A lot of guys had friends and family here. We were a little nervous. We just have to take our time and try to make shots."

Bona did rally in the second half and got as close as seven points on a couple of occasions. But Marist hit 10 of 17 from the field in the half to keep the Bonnies at bay.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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