A senior-laden St. Bonaventure team gunning for the NCAA Tournament should be able to wipe out the bottom-barrel schools in the Atlantic 10 when they come to town.
The Bonnies did exactly that Saturday, enjoying an 84-44 laugher over depleted Rhode Island before a Reilly Center sellout crowd of 6,000.
Bona (13-4, 5-2) exploded to a 41-14 halftime lead and coasted to its biggest A-10 blowout ever, far exceeding an 83-53 win over Rhody during the 1984-85 season. Bona remains tied with Massachusetts for second in the A-10 East, 1 1/2 games behind Temple.
The 40-point margin was Bona's biggest overall since a 76-32 win over Appalachian State in the 1994-95 season.
It was quite a response to Bona's first two-game losing streak of the season, close defeats at Fordham and George Washington.
"I was kind of disappointed we didn't come out with renewed energy after the Fordham loss," said Bona forward Peter Van Paassen. "Our reaction wasn't the same as after the UNC-Charlotte and Kent State losses (Bona went on four- and six-game winning streaks, respectively, after those games) But we stuck our heads together and practiced hard."
The work showed. The Bonnies scored the first eight points and were never threatened. Leading, 24-14, Bona completed the first half on a 17-0 run to put Rhode Island away.
"We came out with a very aggressive start and I think that was really important for us," said coach Jim Baron. "We needed to get back to our offensive execution and putting more pressure on them. We did a really good job."
The Bonnies hit 34 of 66 from the field (7 of 14 from three-point range). They dominanted the Rams inside with a monstrous 46-14 advantage in points in the paint and a 48-32 rebounding bulge that included 21 offensive boards.
All 13 Bonnies saw action and 11 scored. Guard J.R. Bremer led the way with 17 points. Center Caswell Cyrus had 13. Van Paassen and guard Tim Winn had 10 apiece. Winn had all of his points and his four rebounds in the first half, and added six of his seven assists. He was needed for just six minutes in the second half.
"He just manhandled our guards," said first-year Rhode Island coach Jerry DeGregorio. "He was toying with us."
Several Bona reserves filled up the stat sheet. Forward Robert Cheeks had seven points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Eric Siegrist had seven rebounds for the second straight game and also collected five points and three assists. Forwards Hamilton Rucker and Elton Ruddock even had four points apiece; Ruddock had totaled two points in seven previous career games.
Another little-used forward, Bob Dziengeleski, started in place of freshman Patricio Prato. Dziengeleski had a rebound, an assist and played some good defense in his six minutes. Prato, who had only four points at GW, was held to two in 28 minutes Saturday.
"We got important contributions in the first half from people who don't normally play a lot," said Van Paassen, who had a team-high nine rebounds. That was at a time when the game wasn't over yet."
The 6-foot-3 Siegrist, who averaged 25.3 points last year as a high school senior in Poughkeepsie, is adjusting nicely to being a first-year role player. He's averaging 2.9 points and 3.3 rebounds but has been a solid defender and rebounder.
"When somebody releases the ball, I try to see where it is coming off (the rim)," Siegrist said. "I don't really box out. I try to read the ball and it's mostly instinct. . . . I'm not the one to take the shots here. You first look to get the ball to the post. Then if you're open, shoot it. I've gotten better with it as the year's gone on."
Rhode Island (5-15, 2-5), which won the A-10 Tournament last year before star Lamar Odom left for the NBA, is having a horrible season. The Reilly zanies greeted the Rams' entrance with chants of "You Need Odom" and they were right.
Rhode Island hit just 16 of 56 from the field -- including a 5-for-26 showing in the first half -- and made 17 turnovers. The Rams were further handicapped Saturday when sophomore forward Tavorris Bell (14.4 ppg) didn't play due to a concussion. Guard Zach Marbury led the Rams with 12 points.
"The second half was real important for us to maintain our offensive intensity," Baron said. "We didn't linger on our lead."
Bona has a non-conference game Monday night at Wisconsin-Green Bay and returns home to host Fordham next Sunday. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.