St. Bonaventure survived thanks to a huge game from an unlikely source, and advanced with the school's NCAA history at the forefront of its mind.
Junior forward Courtney Stockard, whose status was in question up until game time, had a tremendous performance with a game-high 26 points as the Bonnies rallied in the second half to defeat UCLA, 65-58, Tuesday night in the NCAA Tournament Play-In Round at University of Dayton Arena.
In his postgame interviews, coach Mark Schmidt dedicated the win to Bob Lanier, who led St. Bonaventure to the 1970 Final Four before a tournament-ending injury.
“In 1970, Bob Lanier got hurt and didn’t have a chance to play UCLA," Schmidt told a live audience on TruTV. "This is for him.”
High drama late: St. Bonaventure held a 58-56 lead with 1:39 remaining. A disputed foul call on Jaylen Adams sent UCLA guard Aaron Holiday to the line. Holiday hit both free throws with 1:11 left to tie the game at 58-58.
Adams, who scored just eight points on 2-of-16 shooting, had been 1 of 15 from the field before hitting a jumper with 49 seconds left that gave Bonaventure a 60-58 lead.
After a timeout with 44.7 seconds left, Holiday lost the ball on a drive and Bona recovered, with Adams getting fouled with 27 seconds to play.
Adams hit the front end of the one-and-one for a three point lead (61-58). The crucial second free throw was good to give Bona a four-point advantage.
Holiday drove the lane again, but committed a charging foul by colliding into LaDarien Griffin. Another UCLA foul sent Adams back to the line with 20.1 seconds to play, and he hit 1 of 2 for a 63-58 Bona lead.
Another UCLA offensive foul, Holiday's fifth, gave Bona the ball with 12 seconds left. St. Bonaventure added two free throws the rest of the way.
Tight second half: Bona, which had a five-point halftime lead, increased it to seven with 18:20 to play when Stockard hit a layup (32-25); UCLA surged back to tie it at 32-32 with 16:49 left.
UCLA had gained a five-point lead midway through the half, but a behind-the-back feed from Adams to Griffin ended a Bona drought and cut the lead to 49-46.
Stockard hit a three to draw Bona within 51-49 with just over seven minutes to play. A rebound and putback by Griffin, on which he was fouled, tied the game at 51-51 with 6:35 left (he missed the free throw).
Bona senior guard Matt Mobley (14 points on 4-of-12 shooting) hit a three-pointer to give Bonaventure a 58-51 lead with 3:54 left, but UCLA would come back to tie it at 58.
Sturdy Stockard: Stockard entered the night as a "game-time decision," but was a major factor right from the start.
Stockard suffered a hamstring injury in the Bonnies' Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal victory against Richmond, which forced him to miss the team's semifinal loss to Davidson. However, Stockard started the game and led all scorers in the first half with 13.
L.A. turnover: UCLA had 20 turnovers to Bona's six for the game. UCLA had 11 turnovers in the first half, which St. Bonaventure turned them into 14 points. Meanwhile, the Bruins had no points off turnovers in the first half.
Bona up at break: After struggling early, St. Bonaventure used some good defense to take a 28-23 lead at halftime. The Bonnies held UCLA to one field goal in the final 10:28 of the half and just two baskets in the half's final 14 minutes.
'Best backcourt' quiet early: Adams, the Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year, had just two points on 1-of-9 shooting in the first half, while Mobley had only five points before halftime. The pair has been considered one of the best backcourts in the nation throughout this season.
Turning it up to 11: Both Bonaventure and UCLA carried 11-seeds into the game, with the winner taking that seed into the main draw of the NCAA Tournament.
Play-in games were added to the tournament in 2001, when the field of 64 was expanded to 65. In 2011, the First Four was added as the total number of tournament teams increased to 68. All opening round games have been held in Dayton.
The only other time a Big 4 team participated in the play-in games was in 2007, when Niagara, which won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, beat Florida A&M, 77-69, to earn the No. 16 seed. Niagara lost to No. 1 seed Kansas in its main draw game.
Main dance floor: St. Bonaventure joins the University at Buffalo, which won the Mid-American Conference tournament for the third time in four years, in the main draw of the NCAA Tournament.
It marks the first time that two Big 4 schools have been in the tournament since 1970, when St. Bonaventure and Niagara were among 25 schools selected.
Big 4 schools have not won an NCAA Tournament main draw game since 1970, when St. Bonaventure went on its famous run to the Final Four.
Up next: St. Bonaventure (26-7) moves on to play sixth-seeded Florida (20-12) at 9:55 p.m. Thursday at Dallas' American Airlines Center. UCLA ends its season at 21-12.