Guard J.R. Bremer woke up St. Bonaventure with a 40-footer at the halftime buzzer Wednesday night. It was the fuse that lit a Kevin Houston explosion.
Houston, Bona's senior forward, poured in 23 of his career-high 36 points in the second half as the Bonnies subdued stubborn Duquesne, 82-70, before 5,421 in the Reilly Center.
Houston was 11 for 15 from the field - including 7 of 7 in the second half - and 9 for 13 at the free throw line. He hit 5 of 8 three-pointers, four coming in the final 20 minutes as the Bonnies wiped out a 35-34 Duquesne lead at the break.
"He was as hot as I've ever seen him, even at practice or a (game-day) shoot-around," Bremer said. "He was on fire. We needed somebody to pick us up in the second half and he made his own run without everybody else. He responded when he was open and kept knocking the shots down."
Houston's output was the most by a Bonnie at home since Essie Hollis lit up Syracuse for 37 in a 91-84 win on Feb. 2, 1977. It also tied the Bona single game record in Atlantic 10 play, set by Rocky Llewellyn in an 88-73 loss at Rhode Island on Jan. 14, 1989.
Houston was unstoppable on the court and couldn't be stopped from a quick exit out of the building either. He declined to appear in an interview area (the Bona locker room is closed to the media) and was thus unavailable for comment.
The Bonnies (14-7, 5-4 A-10) are 8-1 at home this season and the impetus for the latest victory came from Bremer. After Duquesne's Kevin Forney missed a jumper that could have given the Dukes a 37-31 lead in the dying seconds of the first half, Bremer got the ball and made the game's key play.
He looked up at the clock above the basket, took a couple of dribbles just past halfcourt and unleased a nothing-but-net rainbow at the buzzer. It pulled the lethargic Bonnies within a point, 35-34, despite their 11-for-32 shooting.
"It gave us momentum going into the half," said Bremer, who scored 20 points. "We were playing dead and a little lazy. We really weren't into the game. We really needed it."
"I told our guys that we got outrebounded (22-12) and we've got to do a better job of being focused," said coach Jim Baron. "Anything at that point was a positive."
The shot was a killer for Duquesne (7-16, 1-9), which is 0-9 on the road and has lost seven in a row overall.
"They felt a little bit better about themselves because we outplayed them in the first half," said Dukes coach Darelle Porter. "The second half, they came out and shot the lights out."
Bona went wild in the second stanza, scoring 48 points on 14-of-19 shooting. The Bonnies hit their first 10 shots as runs of 11-2 and 14-2 quickly turned the game in their favor. Houston had 22 of Bona's 24 points in an eight-minute stretch.
With center Peter Van Paassen (ankle tendinitis) and guard Patricio Prato (broken wrist) sidelined, the Bonnies are fielding a lineup with no starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team.
Freshman guard Marques Green had nine points and equaled his season high with 10 assists, seven in the second half. Freshman Quadir Habeeb (Turner/Carroll) started at center and set his season-best with seven rebounds. The Bonnies pulled a half-game ahead of Dayton in the battle for fifth place (and the final first-round tournament bye) in the A-10.
"I'll take the position we're in right now," said Baron, who doesn't know if Van Paassen will play in Saturday's sold-out showdown here against first-place St. Joseph's. "With the adversity we've overcome this year, it's a good one to be in because I know a lot of things could have gone south."