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Bona guards turn ice cold in loss

OLEAN – St. Bonaventure’s thin, inexperienced bench is proving to be a problem against Atlantic 10 Conference competition.

The Bonnies endured a rough night on offense and had nowhere to turn for a spark in losing to La Salle, 66-56, Saturday night.

St. Bonaventure is a team that needs its big guns to fire, night in and night out.

Bona shooting guard Marcus Posley, the Atlantic 10’s leading scorer, managed just four points, his lowest total of the season and 12 below his season average.

There simply were not enough other scoring options for the Bonnies, who dropped to 4-4 in the A-10 and 11-8 overall.

Bona’s bench is averaging just 5.5 points a game in conference. It got just six Saturday. La Salle got only eight from its bench. But it was the 18th straight game this season that Bona’s reserves have been outscored.

Posley hit just 2 of 12 shots from the field in the face of tough defending from La Salle’s Khalid Lewis. La Salle got 24 points from shooting guard Jordan Price and 14 rebounds from center Steve Zack.

“You know what’s great about basketball?” said La Salle coach John Giannini. “And this is why I love my team: Two of the best players in the game today were Steve Zack and Khalid Lewis, and between the two of them they made one field goal. You win with defense, you win with rebounding, you win with passing. Those guys passed the ball, they defended like crazy. They were high-level players today.”

Bona’s three guards, Posley, Jay Adams and Andell Cumberbatch, combined to shoot 5 of 29 from the field.

“Give all the credit to La Salle, I thought they played extremely well defensively,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt.

“We didn’t get production from our guards, which we usually do,” Schmidt said. “I say it all the time, jump-shooting is fickle. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. … You can’t get on a roll offensively when you shoot 5 for 29. It’s impossible.”

The loss dropped the Bonnies into a tie for eighth place with La Salle. The Explorers, who were knocked out of the A-10 tournament in the first round last season by Bona, improved to 12-9 and 4-4.

Five of Bona’s six healthy reserves are freshmen or sophomores, and the sixth is junior point guard Iakeem Alston, a junior college transfer in his first year in Schmidt’s system.

The Bonnies miss senior guard Jordan Gathers, who missed the first month to injury and decided to leave school. He’s eligible to transfer and play a full season for some other school next season. But he gave the Bonnies 26 minutes and 8.2 points a game last season.

Denzel Gregg, a 6-7 sophomore from Syracuse, is Bona’s sixth man. He’s averaging 14.7 minutes and 3.5 points a game.

Gregg started Saturday in place of Posley, who was held out by Schmidt for the first five minutes for being late for a shoot-around. Posley still played 32 minutes.

“We don’t change the way we defend for the leading scorer in the conference,” Giannini said. “Khalid did a good job on him. Khalid is strong and he’s tough and he’s active.”

La Salle went to the Sweet 16 in 2013 but stepped back last year, finishing 15-16. The game was the only regular-season meeting between the teams this year.

Bona got 21 points from forward Dion Wright and 17 from center Youssou Ndoye. But a crowd of 4,769 at the Reilly Center never could get too excited because Bona never had a run of more than 4 points after the first five minutes of the game.

“We tried to go inside,” Schmidt said. “I thought Dion and Youssou did a really good job. If our fours and fives get 38 points on 13 of 22 shooting, that’s what we need. … At the same time you’ve got to shoot the ball well from the perimeter to win in this league.”

Bona’s next game is Wednesday at Davidson, which is 5-3 in the Atlantic 10. Bona plays host to first-place Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com