ALLEGANY – Coming off a week-long break, St. Bonaventure played like it was still on leave for most of Tuesday night’s game against St. Joseph’s.
Nobody was more lethargic than star shooting guard Matt Mobley.
He was shut out over the first 27 minutes, despite the fact his 19 points-per-game scoring average is fourth-best in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Mobley finally threw off the invisibility cloak. He hit his first shot with 12:18 to go. Then with the Bonnies still down 10 with six minutes to left, Mobley hit the big shots that helped key a 67-63 victory.
“The first 30 minutes were terrible by me,” Mobley said. “Probably the worst 30 minutes I ever played in my life. But after I saw that first three go in, it gave me confidence and I picked it up the last 10 or so minutes.”
Bona outscored St. Joes, 18-4, over the final six minutes to erase a 59-49 deficit. Mobley scored 10 of his 13 in that span.
“Matt needs to score for us to win,” said Bona coach Mark Schmidt. “He showed some toughness. He didn’t play well the first whatever, 30 minutes. But he kept on working at it. When you keep working good things can happen.”
Bona (13-6) won its third straight and moved into a four-way tie for second in the A-10 at 5-2.
This was a game that defied logic. Bona is the highest-scoring team in the A-10 and the best three-point shooting team. St. Joe’s is the second-lowest scoring team in conference games and the worst three-point shooting team.
“If you said to me two hours ago they're going to score 67 points, I'd say let's go, make the deal,” said St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli afterward.
The two teams reversed roles. Bona had its lowing scoring first half of the season in falling behind, 42-27, at intermission. The Hawks, averaging a mere four threes a game, made 7 of their first 13 three-point attempts.
A stunned Reilly Center crowd of 3,961 saw the Bonnies fall behind by 18, 53-35, with 14 minutes to play.
“We didn't play well, especially in the first half,” said Schmidt. “I don’t know if it was the layoff. We were just stagnant. Give St. Joe’s credit.”
“We were dead in the water,” Schmidt said. “If you don't have character guys, tough guys, guys who want to win, we would have quit. It’s a credit to those guys to come back and hit the shots.”
Mobley, the 6-foot-3 junior transfer from Central Connecticut, has been remarkably consistent in taking over the off-guard job held by the sensational Marcus Posley.
Mobley has scored in double figures 17 of 19 games. He leads the nation in minutes played (38.6 a game). He’s sixth in the A-10 in rebounding, fourth in three-point percentage and tied for second in threes per game.
For whatever reason, he was passive vs. the Hawks, taking only two shots the first 27 minutes.
“I think I got the ball a decent amount,” Mobley said. “I just didn’t get many good looks. I was just trying to play in the flow of the game, wasn’t trying to force anything.”
Mobley scored 10 points in a span of 2:30 to cut the deficit from 10 to one, 62-61. He dunked on a drive down the lane, He hit a tough three from the wing with the hand of Lamarr Kimble in his face. Then he made a nasty, cross-over dribble and step-back three against a flat-footed Kimble. Then he drove the lane and hit a hanging, 5-footer.
“The step-back was just part of the game,” Mobley said. “I made a move, he reacted so I just pulled up and shot it.”
Freshman forward Josh Ayeni hit the go-ahead shot, a 15-footer with 1:33 left to make it 63-62. Jaylen Adams led the Bonnies with 19 points.
Bona’s defense got jump-started by a switch to a zone in the second half. St. Joe’s shot 55 percent in the first half but reverted to form in the second, hitting only 28 percent, including 1 of 11 three-pointers.
“I thought we squeezed the ball too much in the last six minutes,” lamented Martelli. “Squeezing it instead of moving it, and not going enough downhill. I thought we tried to play around the defense, particularly when they were in zone, instead of going downhill.”
“It’s a long season,” Schmidt said. “There’s going to be days where you don’t play well. Those are the games you need to pull out if you’re going to have a decent year. This was one of those games.