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Bona gets balance, tops Niagara

OLEAN – St. Bonaventure’s offense closed its non-conference season in style Wednesday night.

The Bonnies hit a season-high 12 three-point shots in cruising to an 82-68 victory over Niagara University.

A crowd of 3,728 at the Reilly Center saw Bona senior forward Dion Wright score a career-high 28 points. It saw the Bonnies share the ball fabulously, producing 24 assists on 29 field goals.

The Bona offense looks a little better than last year entering Atlantic 10 Conference play, which begins with a home game Saturday against Davidson.

Bona’s offense better be improved, because the defense doesn’t have the 7-foot rim-protector, Youssou Ndoye, it had last season.

“We’re still a work in progress, like most teams,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “Good teams sustain their effort on the offensive end and the defensive end. We have not done that yet. That’s the challenge. That’s what we need to get to.”

The Bonnies (8-3) earned their best non-conference win percentage (.727) in Schmidt’s nine-year tenure. Now comes the A10 grind.

Bona was picked to finish eighth out of 14 in the A10. Seven A10 teams are ranked in the top 100 in the nation by the analytics website Bona stands at 104.

Bona’s offense is carried by its “big three” of Wright (17.2 ppg), shooting guard Marcus Posley (17.0 ppg) and point guard Jay Adams (16.2 ppg).

Posley has more help on the perimeter than he had last season. Adams’ game has taken a step forward this year, and he already has almost as many three-pointers (28) as he had all last season (34). Plus Bona freshman Nelson Kaputo has made an immediate impact on offense, averaging 7.4 ppg and hitting 21 three-pointers.

Bona is sharing the ball a tad better than last year, and it’s a good offensive rebounding team.

“We like to go small and move Marcus to the 3,” Schmidt said, referring to a three-guard lineup of Adams, Kaupto and Posley. “Usually that gives us three shooters and four really good offensive players, with Dion being at the 4.”

“When you have three perimeter guys who can shoot the ball and take guys off the bounce, that’s hard to deal with,” Schmidt said. “The problem with that is the defensive end, rebounding, we’re small. So you’re going to give up something from the defensive standpoint when you go small. For us so far it’s been successful.”

“The question is will it be successful against bigger, athletic teams like we’re about to play?” Schmidt said.

Bona fans are about to find out. Davidson (8-3) was A10 regular-season champion last year.

Against Niagara, Bona was simply too long and athletic. Wright hit 11 of 17 shots, all but two of them in the paint. Adams added 16 points and hit 5 of 8 three-pointers. He also had 12 assists and just two turnovers. Kaputo had 14 points.

“When your teammates knock down shots like they did tonight, then it’s easy to get assists,” Adams said.

Niagara coach Chris Casey on guarding Wright: “You leave him and double him, he’s a good passer, and you’ve got three guys on the perimeter who all make threes. So it’s a little bit of pick your poison at that point.”

Niagara (3-10) got 19 points from junior guard Emile Blackman and 14 from junior point guard Cameron Fowler.

“I do think my guys compete extremely hard, and I do like that about them,” Casey said.

Niagara begins Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play this weekend. The Purple Eagles visit Siena Saturday then play at MAAC-favorite Iona on Monday. ... Niagara lost one scholarship player. Freshman guard Romero Collier was ruled academically ineligible after the first semester and no longer is enrolled at the university. He’s a Syracuse product who was averaging 6 minutes a game. ... The win was Schmidt’s 132nd at Bona, tying him with Jim Baron for fifth on the school’s career list.