ROCHESTER – Marcus Posley produced one of the great performances in St. Bonaventure history Wednesday night.
The senior guard scored a career-high 47 points to lead the Bonnies to a 98-90 victory over Saint Joseph’s.
The win moved the Bonnies up to the No. 2 position in the Atlantic 10 Conference with one game to go in the regular season. Bona improved to 21-7 overall and 13-4 in conference.
The outcome also gave Bona another marquee win to add to its resume as a candidate for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Bona improved to 3-2 against teams in the top 50 of the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index ranking.
“I’ve been doing this for a long, long time,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt, “and that’s the best performance I’ve seen since I’ve been on the sidelines as a head coach or an assistant coach. That was just incredible.”
Posley’s total was the highest by a Division I player this season. It was the fourth highest in Bona history, behind 51- and 50-point games by Bob Lanier and a 48-point game by Tom Stith.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” said Posley. “We executed the game plan going into the game. … I think what happened was I was just hitting shots early. They were giving me good looks and I got in a rhythm early.”
If Bona can win its regular-season finale at Saint Louis Saturday and win a game in the A-10 Tournament it would seem to be in good position for an NCAA bid. Saint Joseph’s ranked 26th in the RPI. Bona ranked 35th and now will move up.
Given the importance of the game, Posley’s night arguably ranks among the top five most significant in Bona history. The greatest individual efforts in Bona lore include: Lanier’s 50-point game against Purdue in the Holiday Festival championship game at Madison Square Garden in 1969, a 46-point outing by Stith in a three-OT win over Providence in 1960, Greg Sanders’ 40-point game in the 1977 NIT final against Houston, and Andrew Nicholson’s 26-point, 14-rebound, eight-block game against Xavier in the 2012 A-10 title game.
Posley made 15 of 19 shots from the field, including 6 of 7 from three-point range and 11 of 12 from the free-throw line.
A raucous crowd of 6,457 at Blue Cross Arena saw the Hawks win a defensive battle but lose the war.
Burned by Jaylen Adams’ 31 points in a loss a month ago, the Hawks flashed an extra defender out on the Bonnies’ point guard when he tried to get around screens near the top of the key.
Adams was held to six points. But he quickly got rid of the ball, and his teammates moved it to the open man. Dion Wright scored 22; Denzel Gregg had 14.
“They were doubling the high ball screen and took Jay out of his comfort zone,” Schmidt said. “But I thought he passed the ball, he got it out of there. And Marcus and Dion and Denzel made plays.”
“I felt like if I got the ball on the wing in a good position, they didn’t really double down on me at all,” Posley said. “I’d just make them pay for it. If I drive and I get by them and someone steps up, someone else is going to be open. Most of the time when I was getting past the defender in front of me, I was able to get to the rim or create separation for a jump shot. It was just a hot hand.”
Saint Joseph’s put its best player, 6-foot-6 DeAndre’ Bembry, on Posley. But the 6-foot Rockford, Ill., native was too quick for Bembry, driving past him repeatedly for scores near the rim.
“Bembry is a great defender, Everybody knows that,” Posley said. “He’s an all-league player in our conference. … But things were going for me. When you have confidence early, you feel like nobody can really stop me.”
“What are you gonna do?” said Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli. “We did a nice job on Adams, taking him out of his rhythm, and we didn’t do enough with Posley. … Him and Wright took us on the bounce too freely.”
Posley had 18 in the first half as the Bonnies built a 41-28 lead.
St. Joe’s used a 12-0 run early in the second half for a 55-53 lead with 12:42 to play.
Posley took over. He dished to Gregg for a 12-foot basket. Then he scored 15 points in a four-minute stretch to give the Bonnies a 74-60 lead.
He blew by Bembry on a drive down the lane and got fouled for a three-point play. He hit two free throws. He went coast-to-coast for a driving layup, then he scored on another fast-break layup. After a Wright three-pointer, Posley flew by Bembry again for a spinning reverse layup. Adams made a steal at halfcourt and drove for a thundering dunk. Within seconds Bona got another steal and Posley hit a 27-foot trey, three feet beyond the NBA three-point line.
The Rochester crowd went berserk.
“He’s like a microwave, he’ll go off any time,” Wright said of Posley.
“The reason I’m most proud is the way we handled adversity,” Schmidt said. “They took the lead. When you’re up by 13 at halftime and a team comes out and puts it to you, it’s easy to lay down. But I thought the crowd was terrific and we answered them. We went right back at them.”
Saint Joseph’s fell to 24-6 overall and 13-4 in conference. In the second half, the Hawks scored 62 points and Bona scored 57. Bona shot 63.5 percent from the field. The Hawks shot 47.6 percent.
The Bonnies have won four straight and nine of their last 10.