ALLEGANY – Jaylen Adams came to the rescue on a night when St. Bonaventure was not shooting great and was getting hurt inside by a bigger opponent.
The sophomore guard from Baltimore scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half to rally the Bonnies to an 80-76 victory over Duquesne.
It was a nerve-wracking game for 4,101 at the Reilly Center, because a Dukes team that had lost six straight led for the first 12 minutes of the second half and forged a six-point lead with 8:30 to go.
But Adams hit back-to-back three-pointers, the first from the top of the key and the second from the corner, to pull the Bonnies even, 65-65. Then Adams hit four straight free throws inside of the two-minute mark to give Bona the lead for good, 76-72.
“He was terrific,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “He didn’t play great in the first half. But I thought he was always under control. Every time he plays, you’re so confident he’s going to make that next play. He took care of the basketball. … He made shots when we needed to make shots. He’s been doing it the whole year.”
The win improved the Bonnies to 19-7 overall and 11-4 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Bona stands fourth in the A-10 with three games to go in the regular season. But the Bonnies now are just a game behind three teams tied for first. Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton and Saint Joseph’s all stand 12-3. Bona hosts UMass (5-10) Saturday. The Bonnies close with Saint Joseph’s and Saint Louis (5-10) next week.
Adams, who scored 31 in Bona’s upset of Dayton last week, ranks second in the A-10 in scoring, at 20.3 ppg in conference play. His ability to beat the Duquesne guards off the dribble and get into the lane in the second half forced the Dukes to change defenses down the stretch.
“Jaylen Adams, I thought he was tremendous,” said Duquesne coach Jim Ferry. “That’s why we had to go zone for a couple possessions, just to try to keep him out of the lane, and then he hit two threes.
“One of our guys did not go over the top of the ball screen,” Ferry said. “And he fired the three off the ball screen. The other one, we collapsed and they kicked it out to him. That was all predicated on us not being able to keep him out of the lane and having to get a change-up. They were getting in the lane and it was foul shot after foul shot. We went zone trying not to foul.”
With the game tied at 72, 6-foot-11 Duquesne center Darius Lewis grabbed an offensive rebound. But Adams stripped the ball as Lewis bounced it before going up with a shot. That set up the go-ahead free throws.
“He’s really big,” Adams said. “He got an offensive rebound and he put it down. When you’re that big, the ball has to go a long way to get back to your hands, so I just kind of reached and got one.”
The Bonnies were fortunate to enter intermission tied, 36-36, because Duquesne got 14 offensive rebounds in the first half. The Dukes average just nine a game.
Bona played tougher in the second half, thanks in part to strong inside play from 6-10 redshirt freshman Jordan Tyson. Bona outrebounded the Dukes in the second half, 21-20.
Bona also won because Adams and Marcus Posley played good defense on the Dukes’ standout guard tandem of Micah Mason and Derrick Colter. Those two combined for 50 points in Duquesne’s win over Bona in January.
This time they combined for 29 and just 9 of 31 shooting from the field.
Posley made just 4 of 15 shots, but he held Mason to a 5-of-16 shooting night.
“We thought Mason was playing the best of anybody in the league the last five games,” said Schmidt. “He was averaging 24 points a game. He was shooting 52 percent from threes. That was the key. We couldn’t let him get off. … We did a heckuva job.”
Bona got 15 points and eight rebounds from senior forward Dion Wright. Posley had 11 and junior forward Denzel Gregg had 10.
“It was a great victory,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t play great offensively. But I thought we played really, really hard. I thought we showed some great character. When we got down by nine our guys didn’t panic.”