ALLEGANY – With Jaylen Adams running the show, most things are possible again this year for St. Bonaventure.
The Bonnies’ impeccable junior guard showed Wednesday night why he was named one of the top 50 finalists for the John Wooden Award as the best player in the nation.
Adams scored 27 points to lead the Bonnies to an 81-74 victory over Siena College. The 6-foot-2 guard scored 13 points in the final 10 minutes and made the play of the game 41 seconds to go.
After Siena had pulled within one, 74-73, Adams dribbled around a double team, down the lane, hung in the air, got bumped by Siena’s center for a foul and made a layup. He converted the subsequent free throw for a three-point play, and Bona closed out a hard-fought win.
“I came off the screen and I just saw the lane,” Adams said. “And thought I need to attack and score. It dropped for me.”
“We tried to trap him,” said Siena coach Jimmy Patsos. “We called 22, which was to contain the ball screen and make someone else beat us. . . . By the way, he went left. This guy is good. You’re lucky he’s back here. He’s a really good player.”
Bona (4-2) snapped a three-year losing streak to Siena and claimed the Franciscan Cup, the annual trophy that goes to the winner of the game between the two schools.
It was a quality win for Bona, even though Siena fell to 2-5. The Saints are a veteran team with size and are picked to finish second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The Saints attacked the backboards, outrebounding the Bonnies, 43-41. Siena got 18 offensive rebounds and outscored the Bonnies on second-chance points, 20-12.
The one thing Siena didn’t have an answer for was Adams.
The Baltimore native has picked up where he left off last season, when he averaged 17.9 points in leading the Bonnies to a 22-9 record and a share of the Atlantic 10 Conference title. Adams was a first-team All-A10 pick.
Adams is averaging 21.2 ppg this season. He hit 9 of 18 shots against Siena and handed out five assists. His ability to penetrate the lane off the dribble and finish at the rim remains the foundation of the Bona offense.
He kept Bona in control in the lead with dominant play over a 3 1-2 minute stretch. He drove the lane for a layup, hit a three-pointer from the top of the key, grabbed a defensive rebound and drove the length of the floor to draw a foul. He hit two free throws. Then he drove and sent an underhanded pass to freshman Josh Ayeni for a layup. Thirty seconds later he hit a three-pointer.
“Jay played extremely well especially in the second half,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “You need your better players to make plays in those situations.”
Bona got quality contributions from seven players. Junior guard Matt Mobley scored 20 points, while senior forwards Denzel Gregg and David Andoh had 13 apiece. Gregg also had 10 rebounds.
“We found a way,” Schmidt said. “It wasn’t always pretty. We didn’t play our best. But we did shoot the ball well from the foul line. We made the plays when we needed to make the plays.”
Bona hit 23 of 27 free-throw attempts. Siena made just 18 of 32 from the foul line.
“We’re still a work in progress but I think we made another step in the right direction,” Schmidt said. “We found a way to win against a really good team.”
Siena got 23 points and 13 rebounds from senior forward Brett Bisping. Senior guard Marquis Wright had 18 points but made just 5 of 19 shots. A lot of his shots in the lane were altered by Bona’s aggressive front line.
“That’s a high-end A-10 team we just played on the road and we played our butts off,” Patsos said. “I was really proud of our kids.”
No. 150: The win was No. 150 at Bona for Schmidt, in his 10th season.
In the house: Attendance was 3,859 at the Reilly Center.
Up next: The Bonnies play host to the University at Buffalo at 4 p.m. Saturday. Bona will retire the No. 53 jersey of Greg Sanders in a pregame ceremony and it also will honor its 1977 NIT championship team. Sanders is Bona’s all-time leading scorer with 2,238 points.