NEW YORK – It’s not in Dion Wright’s nature to talk about himself. In fact, it’s difficult enough for him to say anything. Over his four years at St. Bonaventure, he has been about basketball while allowing his play to speak for itself.
Wright is a proud, competitive kid. The fact he was left off the all-conference teams must have been eating at him going into the Atlantic 10 Tournament in the Barclays Center. The guy had 12 double-doubles this year and was one-third of one of the most dangerous trios in the conference.
And he wasn’t worthy of the third team? It was an insult.
Wright did everything in his power to lift St. Bonaventure, but it wasn’t enough. The Bonnies allowed a 12-point lead to slip away in the final 12 minutes before falling to Davidson, 90-86, in overtime in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. It could be enough to eliminate the Bonnies from the NCAA Tournament.
The Bonnies leaves their future in the hands of the selection committee. St. Bonaventure shared the conference championship with Dayton and Virginia Commonwealth, but the early exit does not help their cause. They could be one of two teams to receive an invitation to for the play-in game in Dayton.
It sure looked like Wright had something to prove Friday night against Davidson. He was a man possessed when the game began and never let up. He finished with a career-high 32 points and 15 rebounds for the Bonnies. He did his part. Marcus Posley also had 32 points, driving for a huge bucket with 32 seconds remaining to give the Bonnies a 75-72 lead.
Davidson forced overtime when Peyton Aldridge made three free throws with 10 seconds remaining in regulation after Wright fouled him. Posley was unable to get off a quality shot as the regulation horn sounded.
The NCAA selection committee will have the final say, but St. Bonaventure has an argument for inclusion. The Bonnies was 22-8 this season and 14-4 in a tough, competitive conference. St. Bonaventure climbed three spots and was 25th in the country in the fluid Ratings Percentage Index.
Wright unleashed the competitor inside throughout the game and howled from the top of his lungs en route to the bench for a timeout with Bona holding a 60-49 lead with just less than 12 minutes left. At that point, he already had 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He has been dependable all year.
And he was there from the start Friday. Wright assumed command on the first possession, driving the baseline and soaring for a short hook shot. He made five of his first six shots in the first five minutes. He allowed his teammates to get their feet under them against a team that was ready to play.
Jack Gibbs didn’t score his first bucket until 9½ minutes into the game, but the Bonnies weren’t going to keep the nation’s third-leading scorer down all night. Gibbs had 29 points after being held to nine all game against La Salle.
Jaylen Adams drew a tough assignment trying to guard Gibbs and struggled to keep up in the first half. Making matters worse, he appeared to be limping while trying to shake off a leg injury. Last season, Adams missed the A-10 tournament with a broken finger. He has been one of their top players this year.
St. Bonaventure didn’t need to account for Brian Sullivan in the first game, which the Bonnies won in the Reilly Center. He was sidelined with an injury but in full health Friday. The senior guard made two three-pointers early, a big one late in regulation and two more in overtime.
Posley has shown over his two years at St. Bonaventure that he can take over a game at any moment. He was lit up Saint Joseph’s for 47 points, including 29 in the second half. He asserted himself much the same during the Bonnies’ 15-4 run to flip a 29-22 deficit into a 37-32 lead at the half.
The Bonnies made four threes during the run. Posley connected on consecutive shots from long range, including a 25-footer that electrified the crowd in Barclays Center. Adams problems on defense carried into his offensive game. The first-team all-conference guard had just three points before fouling out in overtime.
Davidson, after looking sharp in a victory over La Salle in its first game, showed up with the requisite confidence, defensive intensity and plenty left in the tank. If Bona needed mental preparation for their game, they could have watched the back-alley slugfest between George Washington and Saint Joseph’s.
GW watched its 14-point halftime vanish in less than 14 minutes and ended up losing by six. Teams are so evenly matched in the A-10 that no halftime lead is safe. St. Bonaventure is no stranger to fantastic finishes. The Bonnies have played in so many close games that they practically invite sticky situations.
Bona’s mindset going into their game Friday was winning the A-10 tournament and ensuring automatic entrance into the NCAAs. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi included them and St. Joe’s on a list of teams on the bubble. St. Bonaventure wanted to make the decision considerably easier, if not finalized with a win Friday.
Now, it’s out of their hands.