Dion Wright was his reliable, unorthodox, bucket-gathering self Wednesday on a night when almost nobody else could put the ball in the hoop.
The St. Bonaventure senior forward scored a career-high 26 points to lead his team to a 60-58 victory over the University at Buffalo.
Bona hit just 2 of 21 shots from three-point range. UB’s offense sputtered and stuttered with 21 turnovers and hit just 1 of 13 shots behind the arc.
But the 6-foot-7 Wright scored on his typical array of baby hooks, floaters, bank shots, drives, runners, short jumpers and rebound put-backs.
How many ways can Wright find to score inside 10 feet?
“Ten?” asked Bona guard Marcus Posley. “The dude’s crazy. He can throw the ball up at the rim without looking at it and the ball will go in.”
“He’s got like the YMCA game,” said UB coach Nate Oats. “You don’t think he’s going to blow by you and then he’s at the rim finishing a second later. I’m not going to be sad to see him leave, for sure. He hurt us two years in a row now.”
Posley hit the winning shot, a 15-footer with 8 seconds to go after UB had scored eight straight points to forge a tie. But even Posley, Bona’s leading scorer, had an off night, hitting 6 of 18 shots and finishing with 13 points.
“All the credit goes to Dion,” he said.
Bona is leaning on Wright more heavily than ever this year. Preseason injuries to two big men have forced Wright to spend even more of his time against bigger players in the low post on offense and defense.
But Wright has a knack for finessing the ball into the rim and grabbing rebounds in the low post. When he steps out to the wing, few power forwards or centers can keep him from driving to the basket.
UB tried putting big men Ikenna Smart and Nick Perkins on him, but Wright was too quick. He was a tad too big for 6-5 wingman Rodell Wigginton.
“We couldn’t find a matchup,” said Oats, who put 6-6 Blake Hamilton on Wright later in the second half. “We finally got Blake, who did a halfway decent job late in the game when we got the stops.”
“I’m not sure if Dion knows what he’s doing, but the ball goes in,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “Dion has a talent when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. He does it in a variety of ways. A lot of times it looks unorthodox, but it goes in.”
If I get a nice touch around the rim I just try to put the ball in the basket. I work on that every day.
“If I got a good touch I tried to score in the post, and my teammates were finding me early,” said the soft-spoken Wright, who acknowledge he works on his baby hook shot “every day.”
Wright, a Carson, Calif., native, averaged 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds a game last season. This year he’s averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.
UB got 16 points from Wigginton, 12 from Lamonte Bearden and 10 from Hamilton. But senior guard Jarryn Skeete was shutout on 0 for 3 shooting. He had foul trouble and was limited to 24 minutes. Skeete, who averaged 9 ppg last year, also was shut out in the NCAA Tournament loss to West Virginia last year.
UB also hit just 19 of 32 free-throw attempts.