Random takeaways from St. Bonaventure’s 81-74 victory over Siena Wednesday night at the Reilly Center:
x-Bona is not quite as good as last year (and it's unfair to expect them to be) but this is going to be a fun year for the Bonnies. Their fifth-place ranking in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll just might be on target, as long as they stay reasonably healthy. This was a quality early season win for Bona, which like every team this time of year still is sorting things out.
x-Quote of the night in post-game interviews came from Siena’s 1,000-watt personality, coach Jimmy Patsos. He worked for 13 years as an assistant under Basketball Hall-of-Famer Gary Williams at Maryland. Bona’s Mark Schmidt played for Williams at Boston College. That’s an indelible connection, in Patsos’ eyes.
“He’s a survivor,” Patsos said of Schmidt. “He’s got the Gary Williams survivor on his arm. He played for him. I worked for him. When you do that you, have a common bond. It’s almost like escaping Shawshank. He’s just a really good guy.”
Patsos has used that Shawshank Redemption reference in the past. Great line. I’ve read comments from Bill Belichick’s former aides that indicate they feel similarly about the Patriots legendary coach.
x-Patsos opened his post-game comments with a tribute to the Bonnies’ 2015-16 season:
“Always a pleasure to come to the Reilly Center. Mark Schmidt one of the class guys in the country, what a great guy, what a great coach. I thought Monmouth last year had a lot to gripe about over not going to the NCAAs, but nobody had a bigger fuss to me than St. Bonaventure. Not Valpo, not San Diego State. They should have gone. The record they had. The schedule they played, to lose in overtime to Davidson.”
x-Schmidt needs to work on more superlatives and other ways to describe the brilliance of point guard Jay Adams. The junior from Baltimore looks like he’s ready to improve on his phenomenal production of last season. Adams’ ability to finish at the rim is a testament to his upper-body strength and workout regimen. Lamonte Bearden, the ex-UB star point guard who’s sitting out at Western Kentucky, should watch some Adams tape and see what he could become if he worked a lot harder on his game.
x-Senior forward Denzel Gregg, who’s in the impossible role of filling Dion Wright’s 4-position, is off to a good start. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds and he’s playing more confident and more explosive than last year at this time. After Adams made the big three-point play of the game to put Bona ahead, 77-73, Gregg blocked a driving shot by Siena point guard Marquise Wright with 25 seconds left to essentially ice the win. Gregg had some just-misses on three or four finishing attempts around the rim.
X-Freshman forward Josh Ayeni, the 6-8 recruit Schmidt pulled out of a hat in mid-August, is a revelation so far. He’s averaging 19.5 minutes. He played 28 minutes and had six points vs. Siena. But the 220-pounder was a much-needed presence inside vs. an experienced Siena front line. Ayeni is from Nigeria by way of a Maryland high school. He’s more physical than Derrick Woods, who started as a freshman nine games last season and transferred over the summer in a disappointing move for Bona. And Ayeni looks more coordinated and a little more skilled than Jordan Tyson, the big man who averaged 17.4 minutes as a freshman last year and also transferred after last season. This isn’t to say Tyson as a finished product (if he ever becomes a finished product) might not be better than Ayeni. But early returns on Ayeni are very promising.
x-We didn’t expect anything this season from freshman Amadi Ikpeze, the under-recruited 6-10 freshman from Amherst High, but he gave Schmidt 10 good minutes. Obviously the departures of Woods and Tyson have forced Schmidt to accelerate Ikpeze’s development. He flexed his big frame in pulling down three rebounds. He may be able to give Bona 10 minutes a game against big Atlantic 10 foes, and Bona will probably need it. He’s not as lime-green raw as he was billed coming out of Amherst.
x-The University at Buffalo is going into a hornet’s next Saturday for the Big 4 showdown at the Reilly Center. Bona is retiring Greg Sanders’ No. 53. It’s likely to be a sellout. Bona’s roster competes like crazy. UB better be ready for a figurative brawl. Remember the Bona-UB game two years ago at the RC? UB had a great team, led by Justin Moss. The Bulls had a deer-in-the-headlights look for the first eight minutes and got pounced on. They battled back but couldn’t recover from the poor start. UB is a good team, but Bona’s length and athleticism will give the Bulls big problems. And UB still is without its No. 2 scoring option, guard C.J. Massinburg, who’s out with mononucleosis. Bona by 10.
x-Siena beat Niagara by 12 and 12 and Canisius by 21 and 23 last year. Siena is picked for second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Griffs and Purple Eagles will be lucky to come within 10 of Siena this season.
x-Patsos tried to double-team Adams on the key play in the final minute. He wanted a time out but didn’t get it. He called the double-team from the sideline.
“Twenty-two is a trapping of the ball screen,” Patsos said. “Twenty-two is a numbers game. Two-two. Forty-four is doubling the post. It’s just a numbers thing that I stole from Popovich, so it’s his fault it didn’t work.”
When Patsos coached Loyola of Maryland in 2008, he double-teamed Davidson’s Steph Curry for all 40 minutes. It was the only game of Curry’s college career in which he was shut out. He was 0 for 3 from the field. But Davidson played 4 on 3 all 40 minutes and beat Loyola, 78-48. (Loyola was overmatched and playing two games in two nights.)
Said Patsos: “Everybody knows I double-teamed Curry for 40 minutes. I said double-team him. Make someone beat us. Next thing I know he was coming down the lane. I kind of wish we fouled him and he didn’t get the three-point play. I would have liked to have seen him just make two free throws at that point.”