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Bucky Gleason: Bona's Adams torches Saint Louis in shooting display for ages

ALLEGANY – Jaylen Adams had already made seven three-pointers when it became clear he couldn’t be contained Wednesday night. Saint Louis had tried all evening and failed. Every time the pressure of the moment mounted, it was swatted away like some minor inconvenience by the senior guard.

Just more than nine minutes remained and Adams had already made deep threes in succession when the time came for him to test the limits for himself. He had to be 28 feet away from the basket, maybe more, when he launched a shot and turned to the Reilly Center crowd knowing darned well it was going through.

And that's when it turned ridiculous. It was absurd, really, when he set his feet near the logo at midcourt on the next possession and let another one fly against better judgment at any other time in his career, in the game of his career, and enjoyed the release before smiling and shaking and pulling his jersey from his shorts.

Of course it fell because, on this night, nearly everything fell for Adams, who made a school-record 10 pointers and finished with 44 points in a 79-56 victory over a Saint Louis team that was left helpless and begging for mercy. He validated his first career 40-point night, which came against Duquesne last weekend, with another and led Bona to its fifth straight victory.

"I got some easy ones in transition to get me going early," Adams said. "Once a shooter makes his first one, a couple really, I felt like I couldn't miss out there. I was really locked in."

Adams made 14 of 18 shots from the floor, including 10 of 13 from long range. He made several shots that he had no business taking and finished with the sixth-highest scoring total in college basketball this season. It was the best shooting performance in the history of Bona basketball and perhaps the best ever in the Big 4.

It was incredible.

"What can I say?" Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. "Jay, he played like a player of the year. Jay just took over the game. I think I was in that zone in CYO on 6-foot rims. He couldn't have played better."

Adams has been such a mainstay during his four years that you almost forget his time at St. Bonaventure is temporary. Four years is all he gets, and four years is all they get from him. Now, he's down to his final seven games in his final season in his final semester of college.

He already has earned a place among the best players in school history. He moved past Mark Jones and into 10th place on the all-time scoring list. He's almost certain to finish second behind Marques Green for career three-pointers and third behind Green and Shandue McNeill in all-time assists.

None of that will matter if the window closes, and he's left looking from the outside, without appearing in the NCAA Tournament. Reaching the Big Dance was the objective when Schmidt handed him the keys to the offense as a freshman, and it remains the goal while the captain puts the finishing touches on his career.

One way or another, Adams will largely determine the Bonnies fate between now and the conference tournament. He's the best player in the conference. He has assumed more responsibility in recent weeks and become more assertive on offense than any time in his career.

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And why not?

Last weekend, when he dropped a career-high 40 points, he made the game-winning three-pointer at Duquesne. You can sense he's trying to squeeze every drop out of his career with the idea he can walk away knowing he did what he could, while he could, during his four seasons in the Southern Tier.

And to think he was shaking off an illness Wednesday night. He was in command from the start and was virtually unstoppable while scoring 17 points in the first half en route to the best two-game stretch of his career by a mile. He carried the Bonnies on a night his teammates were a combined 13 for 40 from the floor.

You know the basket looks the size of a garbage can when Adams stops short of the three-point line, as he did in the first half Wednesday, and converts from long range during a two-on-one fast break. You could see confidence oozing from him while he scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the first 14 minutes.

Saint Louis' defense was geared to stop him, but there wasn't much it could do. Adams has had numerous stretches during his career in which he dominated, but he has never played two games like he did in the victories over Duquesne and Saint Louis.

"I didn't enjoy watching it, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for his game," said Saint Louis coach Travis Ford, a terrific shooter himself for Kentucky back in the mid-1990s. "The name 'Adams' came out of our mouths about 10 billion times the last two days. All respect to him for going out and scoring 44 against a team that was trying to stop him."

In the rare times they prevented him from getting open looks on the outside, he penetrated the middle and found teammates for easy baskets. The floor opened up for the Bonnies simply because he was on the floor, which helped them build a 12-point lead in the first half and a 36-28 advantage at the break. They never trailed in the second half.

Saint Louis drew within 40-36 before Adams banged a three. The Billikens cut the margin to five when Adams had a steal and a layup. The difference was five again when Adams hit a long three followed by a longer three. It was at that point when it was obvious he wasn't missing, or missing many. And then he made two more, four in a span of 2 minutes and 35 seconds, and another late for good measure.

"Just blacking out, man," Adams said. "For me, personally, I just let the game come to me. I try not to force a lot of shots."

Finally, with the crowd chanting his name, after seeing him make six three-pointers in the second half alone, with the Bonnies cruising to an easy victory and a conference win they needed, he walked to the bench to a standing ovation after a performance for the ages. If this keeps up, the Bonnies will be playing for a while.

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