St. Bonaventure forward Vidal Massiah insists he doesn't feel like a shooter all that much, at least not like he did at Eastern Commerce High in Toronto.
But with opponents directing most of their attention to Peter Van Paassen, Kevin Houston or J.R. Bremer, Massiah has been able to do plenty of damage this season.
Massiah did it again Wednesday night, pouring in 16 points and hitting all four of his three-point attempts as the Bonnies posted a workmanlike 82-73 win over La Salle at the Reilly Center.
A crowd of 5,208 saw a big win for the Bonnies (15-8, 6-5 Atlantic 10), who pulled into a tie with Dayton for fifth place in the A-10. That slot is significant because it's the last first-round bye in the A-10 Tournament.
Massiah was 6 for 10 from the field and his four three-pointers were a career high. He's averaging 8.3 points this season after averaging just 1.9 in his last two years. After going just 1 for 21 from three-point land in his first two seasons, Massiah is 18 for 41 this year.
"Especially when you have a presence like Pete (Van Paassen) inside, people try to double-team him and they leave your four-man (power forward) alone," said Bona coach Jim Baron. "Vi has the potential to play inside-out and that's what allows him to be very productive. Tonight was a perfect example."
"I'm a shooter now? I don't know about that," Massiah said. "But the one thing is I've had wide-open shots. You have to take them."
Massiah posted his seventh double-figure outing of the season; he had just one as a freshman or sophomore.
"He worked my camp one year and couldn't make an outside shot," deadpanned La Salle coach Speedy Morris. "He's just done a great job this year, really improved."
"He's lying," said a smiling Massiah. "I was playing a couple games with (La Salle forward) Victor Thomas and a couple of their guys. We had good games. I was making shots. I wasn't 4 for 4 but I was making shots."
Massiah hit two three-pointers within a minute in the second half to help the Bonnies open a seven-point lead after La Salle had closed to 44-43 on Rasaul Butler's trey with 13:49 to play. Bona was never in much danger in the last six minutes as La Salle (10-13, 4-8) got no closer than seven points.
Massiah's confidence took off after his game-winning three-pointer in the final four seconds Jan. 13 against Massachusetts. That paved the way for a career-high 21 points in the Feb. 1 loss at St. Joseph's and 18 more two days later in an overtime win at La Salle.
Massiah's emergence has helped in the face of Van Paassen's continuing battle with ankle tendinitis. The 6-11 senior had six points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes Wednesday.
"Peter gave us tremendous courage and poise and presence inside," Baron said. "To be effective from the perimeter, you've got to have an inside presence and he gives us that."
The game turned in the final 90 seconds of the first half as the Bonnies went on a 7-0 run to take a 34-31 lead into intermission. Bremer's layup off a steal tied the score, 31-31, and a Houston three-pointer put the Bonnies ahead for good. Bona finished the game 11 of 26 from three-point range.
Bremer led Bona with 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Houston chipped in 20 points and senior guard James Hayden equaled his season high with seven points and set a career high with six rebounds. All of his points and boards came in the second half.
Bona kept the streak-shooting Explorers mostly in check. La Salle hit just 27 of 72 from the field, a 37.5 percent clip that was the second-lowest of the season for an opponent. The Explorers were only 8 of 28 from three-point range.
Butler, the A-10's leading scorer at 22 points, finished with 25 but hit just 8 of 31 from the field. He made seven three-pointers in a school-record 21 attempts.
"Now he's a real shooter," Massiah said. "He has no conscience."