Two of the best young point guards in the Atlantic 10 Conference go head-to-head Wednesday when Rhode Island visits St. Bonaventure.
Bona sophomore Jay Adams has taken a big leap forward after an excellent freshman campaign last year. He arguably has played at a first-team all-conference level in helping the Bonnies win eight of their last nine.
St. Bonaventure is 11-3 overall and 3-0 in the A-10, tied for first with Virginia Commonwealth.
Rhode Island’s Jarvis Garrett has improved his point-guard game as a sophomore, keying a defense ranked No. 1 in the A-10 in points allowed.
Rhode Island, picked to finish second in the league, stands 10-6 and 2-1.
“A great matchup of two tremendous sophomore guards,” said Rhode Island coach Danny Hurley. “As they become juniors and seniors, hopefully they can become amongst some of the better point guards nationally.”
“Two guys that lead their team, two guys with great mannerisms,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “Tough but they don’t talk. They just play the game. Two guys that can shoot the ball from beyond the arc and can get the ball in the paint and have a high assist-turnover ratio. Just two really good leaders.”
The game is at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Sports.
Bona’s Adams ranks eighth in the A-10 in scoring (17.8 ppg), second in assists (5.0 per game), first in three-point percentage (47.0) and fourth in three-pointers made (3.0 a game).
“He has a really good IQ for the game,” Schmidt said. “He has a really good personality. He doesn’t get too high or too low. You look at his facial expressions, they’re always the same. … He has a really good understanding of situations, when to go and when not to go.”
Adams’ offense will be challenged by Garrett. The Rams are allowing just 64.3 points a game. They shut down Bona in the lone meeting between the teams last season, scoring a 53-48 win. Adams scored 10 points on 2-of-7 shooting. Bona off-guard Marcus Posley was held to six points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The 6-foot Garrett, a Milwaukee native, was rated higher out of high school than the 6-1 Adams. Garrett picked Rhode Island over Saint Joseph’s, Bradley, Creighton, La Salle and others. Besides Bona, Adams was pursued by Boston University, Drexel and James Madison after de-committing from Jacksonville.
Garrett was viewed as a pass-first point guard entering college. But he has upped his scoring average from 6.4 last season to 11.6 points a game. He’s fifth in the A-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.7 to 1).
Garrett last week helped hold Richmond star guard ShawnDre’ Jones scoreless. Jones had been averaging 15 ppg.
Rhode Island is playing well despite the loss of 6-5 star E.C. Matthews, who entered the season a top candidate for A-10 player-of-the-year honors. Matthews was lost for the season to a right knee injury in the season opener.
“You lose a player like that … and no one person is going to shoulder it all,” Hurley said. “Our freshmen, I think, have come in and played in a real mature way, and really contributed as young players. Our two sophomores,” Jared “Terrell and Garrett, have picked their game up for us.”
All five Rhode Island starters average between 11.2 and 12.5 points a game. The Rams are strong in the frontcourt.
Hassan Martin, a 6-7 junior, led the A-10 in blocks each of the last two seasons and is leading again this year, with 2.6 a game.
Kuran Iverson, a 6-9 junior transfer from Memphis, is averaging 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. He was rated a top-35 recruit in the nation out of high school and is a cousin of former NBA great Allen Iverson.
Led by those two, the Rams are tied for first in the A-10 in offensive rebounding, grabbing 33.7 percent of missed shots on the offensive end.
Rebounding figures to be one of the tough matchups for the Bonnies, who are heavily dependent on the rebounding of 6-7 senior forward Dion Wright. Bona gave up 16 offensive rebounds in its win at UMass Saturday. It didn’t matter, because the Bonnies shot 60 percent from the field.