ALLEGANY – Sophomore guard Idris Taqqee had a career game to lift St. Bonaventure on a day when a lot of things went wrong for the Bonnies.
Taqqee scored a career-high 19 points and hit a career-best five three pointers in a come-from-behind, 85-83, victory over Massachusetts.
The win guaranteed Bona a top-four finish and a bye into the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. It also kept Bona in the running for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid if it doesn’t win the A-10 Tournament. Bona is tied with Dayton for third in the A-10 at 12-4 and improved to 20-7 overall.
Bona fell behind by 18 early, rallied, then waged a tense, back-and-forth battle over the last 15 minutes. Marcus Posley hit the decisive basket on a dazzling drive to the rim with 13.9 seconds left.
The near-sellout crowd of 5,294 at the Reilly Center couldn’t exhale until officials went to video to determine that a made three-point shot by UMass wing Donte Clark came after the buzzer.
UMass played a triangle-and-two defense, going man to man on Bona’s leading scorers, Jay Adams and Posley. That left the 6-foot-4 Taqqee open on the wing, and he made the Minutemen pay at key moments.
Taqqee hit corner shots to pull the Bonnies within 76-74 and 79-77, the latter with 2:22 left.
“They went triangle and two to take out Marcus and Jay, like no respect at all,” said Taqqee, incredulously. “I felt I’m in the gym way too much not to take that into my own hands.”
“He hit two threes in front of me and let me know it early in the game there,” said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. “We were playing some percentages on a few guys. . . . I thought we had to help off on Adams some because of how good he is.”
Taqqee has started the entire season for Bona but he averages only 4.2 points a game. His role is to defer to Bona’s stars on offense and use his athleticism to defend and rebound.
Bona needed more from him because UMass, a team that ranks 13th out of 14 in the A-10 in three-point shooting, was unconscious from the perimeter. UMass shot 57 percent from the field and made 11 of 24 three-pointers.
Taqqee is yet another of Bona coach Mark Schmidt’s diamond-in-the-rough, room-to-grow recruits. Coming out of high school in Massachusetts, he picked Bona over Vermont and Towson State, not exactly stellar competition for an A-10 program.
But Schmidt saw a long-armed athlete with the ability to defend multiple positions and be a “glue guy,” a complementary player who does dirty work. Taqqee played football his first two years of high school, so Schmidt figured his skills would get better with more practice.
As a freshman last year, Taqqee made just one three-pointer in 15 attempts. This year he’s 13 for 39 behind the arc.
“He couldn’t shoot last year,” Schmidt said. “He’s been in the gym just shooting and shooting and shooting, and now all that work has paid off. It’s just one game, but it’s paid off.”
Seniors Posley and Dion Wright were outstanding in their last game in the Reilly Center. Posley played 39 minutes and scored 22 points. Wright played 40 minutes, producing 21 and 11 rebounds.
UMass went ahead, 83-81, on a layup by Jabarie Hinds with 28 seconds left. Then Posley took the ball at the top of the key, dribbled down the lane through three defenders and made a reverse layup. He got fouled and converted a three-point play.
“Dion handed the ball off to me, and he set the screen for me,” Posley said. “I was able to create space and get all the way to the rim.”
Wright got a rebound at the defensive end, got fouled and hit a free throw before the last-ditch shot by UMass.
“On Senior Day ... it’s a special day, it’s a day you’ll never forget as a basketball player,” Schmidt said. “For Marcus to make that shot at the end and for Dion to make that foul shot, that’s the way it should end.”
Posley pushed his two-year career scoring total to 1,011. He’s one of just five Bona players to score 1,000 points in his first two years, joining Bob Lanier, Tom Stith, Fred Crawford and Glenn Price.
Wright recorded his 12th double-double of the season, tops in the A-10 and the most by a Bona player in Schmidt’s nine-year tenure.