OLEAN — St. Bonaventure applied its fullcourt press but someone fell asleep long enough for Saint Joseph’s Langston Galloway to throw a long pass to a streaking DeAndre Bembry for a two-handed dunk, the equivalent of an empty-net goal.
The play gave the Hawks a nine-point lead with 1:02 left in the game, and after the Bonnies’ Jordan Gathers misfired on a three-pointer, most of the 3,975 fans in the Reilly Center headed for the exits. Saint Joseph’s nailed down an 83-74 victory over St. Bonaventure, a huge win for a team squarely on the bubble, and another disappointing loss for the Bonnies (16-13, 6-9 Atlantic 10).
St. Bonaventure trailed for virtually the entire second half – the Bonnies twice held one-point leads in the final 20 minutes – but each time there was a chance to close the margin, the Hawks (21-7, 11-3) unearthed a way to maintain their lead.
Down by 60-54 with 10:22 left, Matthew Wright was fouled from behind the three-point arc and made all three free throws to cut the lead to three points. But Bembry converted a conventional three-point play and after a jumper by Wright, Galloway hit a basket, Isaiah Miles added two free throws and a three-pointer and the Hawks led, 70-59. St. Bonaventure couldn’t get closer than six points the remainder of the contest.
“It’s tough, it’s been kind of the story of our season, not being able to finish games, not being able to get that stop we need,” St. Bonaventure forward Marquise Simmons said.
It ruined Senior Day for Wright, Simmons, Charlon Kloof and Danny Farrell, who were all honored prior to tip-off. Wright, who scored his 1,000th career point on Saturday, went down swinging in scoring 27 points with four assists while playing all 40 minutes. Simmons had 13 points and five rebounds, while Kloof finished with 11 points and five assists before fouling out.
But the Hawks, who have four players averaging double figures, are a hard team to defend. While the Bonnies were successful in fouling out big men Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts – mainly by feeding Simmons and Youssou Ndoye (10 points) in the post – they weren’t able to manage Galloway, who scored 15 of his 27 points in the second half.
Meanwhile, Bembry scored 18 points – seven over his average – on 5-of-9 shooting while Isaiah Miles came off the bench with 11 points while draining 2 of 4 from deep.
“You can see why they’re 11-3 and second in our league,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “They’ve got really good seniors – big, athletic guys who create problems.”
The Bonnies are likely headed for either a No. 8 or 9 seed with a first-round game against La Salle in the A-10 Tournament, which begins March 12.
After stringing together consecutive wins over Fordham, George Mason and Duquesne there was talk of the Bonnies bringing momentum into the A-10 Tournament and perhaps recreating the magic of 2012.
That chatter has diminished considerably with losses to Rhode Island, La Salle and now the Hawks. The Bonnies have a week to prepare for the regular-season finale Saturday at VCU but there’s a distinct possibility St. Bonaventure will enter postseason play on a four-game slide.
“We’re not giving up. We just have to bounce back,” Simmons said. “It’s hard to lose the last game at home but that’s the way it is, we can’t change it, we have to move on.”
Said Wright: “I still feel like we have a lot of season left and the season is far from over for me.”