It may be time for Atlantic 10 rivals to start taking St. Bonaventure seriously as a contender for a first-division finish in conference men’s basketball.
Coach Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies won their fourth in a row overall, third straight in A-10 play and eighth in nine games Saturday afternoon with an 88-77 victory over Massachusetts in the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass.
Bona turned in its best shooting performance of the season, 59.6 percent, making 28 of 47 shots, including 10 of 18 (55 percent) from three-point range. Also, the Bonnies made 22 of 25 free throws in handing the Minutemen (8-7) their second loss in three conference games.
Bona’s 11-3 start is its best overall and in conference play since the 1999-00 team started 12-2 and 4-0 in the conference. The Bonnies are 2-0 on the road in conference play with their next game coming at home against Rhode Island on Wednesday night in the Reilly Center.
The Bonnies were picked to finish eighth in the preseason poll of A-10 coaches.
Sophomore guard Jaylen Adams led the Bona scoring with 24 points and eight assists, but it was far from a one-man show. Five Bonnies scored in double figures. Dion Wright had 19 including 11 in the first half. Marcus Posley had 15. Bona received big lifts from the bench by freshman guard Nelson Kaputo, who made three of his four treys and had 10 points, and junior forward Denzel Gregg, who had 12 points.
St. Bonaventure led, 41-36, at the half and outscored UMass, 15-5, to start the second half, including threes by Adams, Posley and Caputo. The biggest lead was 19 (74-55) with 7 minutes left.
Donte Clark led the Minutemen with 25 points.
The University at Buffalo women’s team (10-4, 2-1 Mid-American Conference) overcame a slow start and went on to a 77-66 victory over Kent State in Kent, Ohio.
UB hit a season scoring high and reached 10 victories the fastest since the 2000-01 team.
The Bulls had assists on 20 of their 24 field goals and forced 19 turnovers. After trailing, 15-2 and 21-5, UB rallied to take a 30-29 lead into halftime then opened the second half with two layups by Cassie Oursler (Grand Island). UB led the rest of the way.
Joanna Smith led UB with 25 points, including 7 for 11 from three-point range. Stephanie Reid had a season-high 19 points while Katherine Ups added 12.
Women’s teams take over the Big 4 scene on Sunday with St. Bonaventure, Canisius and Niagara all scheduled for afternoon games.
The Bona women (13-2, 2-0 Atlantic 10) will put their 12-game win streak on the line against Massachusetts (6-9, 0-2) in the Reilly Center at 5 p.m. (SNY). Cierra Dillard, a Rochester native, leads the visitors with a 13.2 ppg average.
Niagara (4-10, 2-3 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) will look for its third win in a row at Rider (3-11, 0-5 MAAC) in Lawrenceville, N.J.
Canisius (8-6, 2-2 MAAC) will try to end a losing streak that has reached four against Iona in New Rochelle at 2 p.m.