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Bonnies have big game in ... Rochester?

There were numerous good reasons St. Bonaventure decided last summer to play its final regular-season home game in Rochester.

The fact the Bona students are on break this week was just one of the factors that led to the scheduling of Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 Conference showdown with Saint Joseph’s at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.

But with both Bona and Saint Joseph’s in contention for the Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA Tournament berth, Bona fans can’t help but wish the game was in the more friendly confines of the Reilly Center.

St. Joe’s ranks 26 in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index. Bona ranks 35th. Tipoff is 7 p.m. (Radio 95.7 FM).

Bona Athletic Director Tim Kenney said it was difficult to find an ideal date for the game earlier in the season, given events already booked for Blue Cross Arena.

“This year, there was nothing that was working right,” Kenney said of the scheduling. “So we said, the students are gone. It’s a midweek game, a very good name opponent that people in that region would view as a draw. So we said, let’s go with this. Now, did we realize we would all be battling for first place or right up there? No.”

Bona (20-7, 12-4) is tied for third with Dayton in the A-10 and has clinched a top-four finish. Saint Joseph’s (24-5, 13-3) is tied for first with Virginia Commonwealth. Bona already beat Saint Joseph’s once and can finish ahead of the Hawks with a sweep and a win in its regular-season finale at Saint Louis on Saturday.

Bona played early-season, nonconference games in Rochester from 2009 to 2012. It played A-10 rival George Mason there last January in a game that drew 4,032.

Raising its profile and attracting more students from the Rochester area is a priority for Bona. With 1,687 undergraduate students, Bona is the third-smallest Division I school in the country.

“First and foremost is expanding the footprint for the school,” Kenney said.

“Rochester is a big market for us to try to draw regular students and make the name of St. Bonaventure more visible. That’s a big, big part of this. We want to use athletics as part of the solution.”

“When I first got here, we tried to play a big game there, BCS teams, nonconference games,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. “In the last three or four years, we couldn’t do that with the BCS teams going to 18-game schedules. It’s just hard to get anybody to go there.”

When the A-10 expanded from a 16- to 18-game season last year, Bona opted to take a conference game to Rochester. Lightower Fiber Networks has sponsored the Bonnies’ games in Rochester since 2002.

Kenney, in his first year as AD, said he thinks Bona will net more revenue from the Rochester date than for a game at the Reilly Center. But he wants to see how it goes.

Bona had sold more than 4,200 tickets as of late Monday. Bona set aside 200 student tickets and all were sold.

“The walk-up is usually substantial there, and we’re still beating the bushes,” Kenney said. “We’re hoping we can get up to that 6,000 number. That’s really where we need to be. For a game of this magnitude, you’d hope we’d get there.”

Bona beat Saint Joseph’s, 83-73, four weeks ago behind 31 points by guard Jay Adams, who is averaging 18.5 ppg.

“I think he’s playing better than he played against us,” said St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli. “He’s more confident, he’s spreading the ball around. He’s a wonderful passer. He puts guys who are not their primary guys, he puts those other guys in positions where they can score the ball. … I think you’re taking about clearly an all-league first-team kid in Adams.”

St. Joe’s is led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Isaiah Miles (17.9 ppg) and 6-6 junior forward DeAndre Bembry (17.2 ppg), who are each averaging more than eight rebounds a game.