OLEAN – Jaylen Adams’ feet were between the three-point line and the sideline when he released the shot, but it seemed like he was standing in Wellsville. You wonder how many times he envisioned that situation while growing up in Baltimore, counting down, 3-2-1 and letting it fly.
Let the facts show Adams swished a buzzer-beating, 24-foot, three-point bomb Sunday to give St. Bonaventure a 65-62 victory over Saint Louis before 3,712 in the Reilly Center. The real truth is he won the game during the offseason when he worked on his perimeter shooting in hopes of adding another dimension to his game.
Adams knew he won the game on the release, the way good shooters do in that situation. He sank the shot, not to mention the spirit of Saint Louis, and gave the Bonnies a victory despite a subpar performance. And he continued to prove he can withstand the pressure that comes with the Atlantic 10.
“It was just a lot of work,” said Adams, who finished with a game-high 19 points. “When you put in the work, you have a lot more confidence than if you didn’t. I put in the work. My teammates and coaches have a lot of faith in me.”
St. Bonaventure shouldn’t have had its hands full with Saint Louis considering how the season transpired, but it did. The Bonnies were coming off their biggest win of the season, a 10-point victory over Saint Joseph’s on the road, and were playing at home against a Saint Louis team that was 3-6 in the conference and 8-13 overall.
Bona coach Mark Schmidt tried to guard against a letdown after the St. Joe’s game, imploring his troops to put the big win behind them. He knew from experience. Turn back the clocks a few years, and the Bonnies were what the Billikens are this year, a young and scrappy team that was learning how to win.
“The mindset was really, really important,” Schmidt said. “We talked about it for two days. You got to let that one go and prepare for the next one. You can’t allow St. Joe’s to beat you today. That was a big concern. You’re dealing with 18- to 22-year-old kids who don’t always understand. It was a great lesson. It got their attention.”
It’s still too early to determine whether the Bonnies (7-3, 15-6) have discovered the right chemistry or are reaching a high point in conference play. Bona had won its first four conference games and five straight overall before losing three straight. It played great against Richmond on a night when the Spiders couldn’t play worse.
Right when it appeared they could do no wrong, the Bonnies came out disjointed and sluggish against the Billikens. A different team that was near flawless in Philadelphia was out of sorts in Olean. Bona missed nine of its first 11 shots from the field and made only 39 percent of its field goals for the game.
For Bona, the game was a reminder that Bona isn’t always going to have its Big Three – Adams, Marcus Posley and Dion Wright – at their best. Saint Louis deserved credit for pressuring the perimeter and not allowing Bonaventure’s best shooters to find their rhythm. Ultimately, the Bonnies’ resilient defense carried them.
“We showed some mental toughness,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well from the perimeter. They were packing it in. We couldn’t hit anything, especially in the first half. We tried to force things and had too many turnovers. We found a way. The sign of a good team is when you don’t play your best, you find a way to win.”
Adams, who had 31 points against St. Joe’s, wasn’t sharp Sunday. He threw away two passes that handed Saint Louis four points and a 50-42 lead. Posley lacked energy while fighting through an undisclosed injury and made only four of 13 shots. Wright wasn’t right for stretches before finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
St. Bonaventure missed easy shots and lost races to loose balls. The Bonnies missed their first nine three-point attempts and trailed nearly the entire game. They allowed Saint Louis to hang around on their home court. But they can take comfort knowing they won a conference game without playing well.
Sure enough, it was their Big Three who bailed them out of trouble. Adams made two free throws to tie the game, 57-57. Saint Louis failed to block out Wright on his missed foul shot, which led to a Posley three-pointer for a 61-59 lead. Posley made a free throw before Mike Crawford tied the game with 15.9 seconds remaining.
Posley pointed to his wrist while taking the ball out of bounds on the final possession, as if pointing to his watch. He wasn’t reminding Adams about the time on the clock. He was telling him it was “winning time.” Despite the sloppy performance, they had a chance to win the game. Somebody needed to make a play.
The smart money was on Posley, who a year earlier to the day drove the lane for the winning bucket in an upset over Virginia Commonwealth. Posley was headed for the basket again Sunday when the Billikens stopped his penetration. He kicked the ball to the wing, where Adams waited with his feet set and just enough time on the clock.
“It was a good pass,” Adams said. “It felt good leaving my hand. I kind of knew it was down.”