WASHINGTON – Matt Mobley sat before his locker stall 30 minutes after the game Friday night searching for the right words. Shooters for generations have tried to explain the impenetrable mental state that washes over them when everything is perfect and almost every shot falls into the basket.
Mobley made a visit to The Zone early in the second half, broke the Atlantic 10 tournament record with nine three-pointers and finished with 29 points in an 83-77 victory over Richmond in the quarterfinals. And because he heated up at the right time, the Bonnies are virtually guaranteed an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
"It got to a point where I didn't even know what was going on," Mobley said with a laugh. "Every time I touched the ball, I just threw it up and it went in. It's a great feeling. I can't really describe it, honestly. I'm excited for the team and happy to get the win. We'll try to do the same tomorrow."
Mobley was tremendous while connecting on nine of 13 attempts from long range, including a couple that might as well have been released from the White House. He led the Bonnies to their 13th consecutive victory and pushed them into the semifinals for the first time since 2014.
On a night Jaylen Adams was nowhere near his best, Mobley came to the rescue with three straight threes in a 75-second span early in the second half. At one point, after making a 28-footer, he ran past the Richmond bench and flipped his hands in Michael Jordan fashion that suggested he was just as astonished as anyone else.
"Nobody knew what was going on," Mobley said, "and neither did I."
St. Bonaventure had a 74-57 lead with 6:24 remaining when Mobley dropped his final bomb, and it turned out to be the Bonnies last field goal of the game. Richmond crawled back into the game and drew within a basket with 28 seconds remaining before Bona made one final surge to secure the win.
The Bonnies will play Davidson in the semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The two teams split the regular season and played one of most exciting games in years at the Reilly Center, a 117-113 victory for Bona in triple-overtime. Rhode Island will play Saint Joseph's in the other semifinal at 1 p.m. Both games will be on the CBS Sports Network.
Adams, who led the Bonnies in scoring this season and was named conference co-Player of the Year, didn't make a basket until 9:23 remained in the second half. He attempted only seven shots and finished with five points and six assists. The last time Adams was held to five points, he responded with back-to-back 40-point games.
It's a good sign for the Bonnies when he has an off night and they still win.
But, man, was it ever close.
"When your best player doesn't have his 'A' game and you still pull out a victory, it speaks about how we're a team," Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. "It's not just one or two guys. We're not a two-man team. It takes all these guys to fill their roles. When one guy isn't playing to his capabilities, another guy steps up."
The Bonnies helped the Spiders stay in the game after committing too many stupid fouls after building a big lead. St. Bonaventure also had too many turnovers down the stretch, including a ghastly giveaway by Mobley with 1:07 remaining. Adams and LaDarien Griffin made five critical free throws in the final 25 seconds.
It was unsightly at times, but St. Bonaventure survived. All that mattered was that they improved to 25-6 overall while tying the 1969-70 team for the longest winning streak in program history. The Bonnies want to keep rolling, earn the automatic berth into the NCAAs that comes with winning the conference tourney and eliminate any doubt.
"We persevered," Schmidt said. "We found a way. We dealt with some adversity, and we made enough plays to win the game and win our 13th straight."
The Bonnies could be without starting forward Courtney Stockard, who suffered a hamstring injury midway through the second half and did not return. He emerged and a complementary scorer and played a pivotal role for St. Bonaventure during the winning streak.
Bona simultaneously will be trying to win the conference tournament and improve their seed for the NCAAs. The field will be announced during a selection show at 6 p.m. Sunday. Teams receiving invitations will be revealed at the same time before the brackets and broken down.
St. Bonaventure is expected to be seeded between eighth and 11th, depending on what happens in the conference tournament. Regardless, they will enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams in college basketball. It would be an absolute shock – no, a crime – if they were somehow not invited this year.
Despite rampant speculation that an invitation to the NCAAs was sealed after the Bonnies posted a 24-6 record in the regular season, they knew better going into the conference tournament. Bona insisted it needed to keep winning to remove any question about whether they belonged in the Big Dance.
Two years ago, they won a share of the conference title and were passed over for the NCAAs after losing in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tourney. With wins this season over Maryland and Syracuse, among others, and the way they played down the stretch, it shouldn't matter if they lose Saturday or Sunday.
"The only way we can secure our spot is winning the whole thing, honestly," Mobley said. "You know the snub in 2016, everybody remembers that. We don't want to go through that again, so the only way to avoid that is winning the whole thing. We're going to come back tomorrow and try to get a win."