ALLEGANY – Courtney Stockard and Amadi Ikpeze turned to the crowd with just more than a minute remaining Saturday, while St. Bonaventure put the finishing touches on its sixth straight win, and flexed their muscles.
It was their way of reminding those at the Reilly Center that the Bonnies are more than high-scoring senior guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, that there are less-heralded players in the frontcourt who also are responsible for Bona's success this season, players who rarely received the credit for doing the dirty work.
"Of course," Stockard said. "We love our two guards with Jay and Matt, but before the game, I told the rest of the (big men) that we can't solely rely on them two. We have to make plays ourselves to relieve some of the pressure off them. That's the mentality we want to have as a team, playing hard and being a dog."
Let me be clear: Adams and Mobley have been terrific all season, and Bona would be nowhere near 18-6 overall and tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with an 8-4 record without them. They scored 24 points apiece and came through once again for the Bonnies in a 97-88 victory over Richmond before 5,480 fans.
Adams moved past J.R. Bremer and Marques Green to become the highest-scoring guard in the program's 98-year history with 1,741 career points in exactly 100 games. After hitting 28 of 40 from the floor, including 18 of 26 from three-point land, in back-to-back 40-point games, he was 7 of 16, including 3 of 9 from three, Saturday.
Newsflash, he's really good. He's also human.
Mobley scored 11 points in the first 4½ minutes but went silent before hitting a three before halftime. Adams didn't connect from the perimeter for the first 11½ minutes, had eight points in the first half and eight turnovers in the game. He took over with 10 straight points in the second half. The Bonnies, who were 21 of 22 from the foul line, never looked back.
Spliced into their highlight reel were subtle plays made by Stockard and Ikpeze and supporting cast members Idris Taqqee and Tshiefu Ngalakulondi that helped make a difference. The Bonnies were without starters LaDarien Griffin (injured) and Josh Ayeni (suspended) but were hardly compromised.
"They're underappreciated maybe to the outside world, but not to our teammates and our coaches," Bona coach Mark Schmidt said. "They're appreciated within our family. Jay and Matt get a lot of publicity and rightfully so. But within the four walls of the Reilly Center, we know how important they are."
Stockard had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and would have had a triple-double if Bona did a better job converting inside. Richmond was crawling back in the second half before he drove for one bucket, followed up a rebound for another, took a charge and blocked a breakaway layup in a 90-second span of relentless basketball.
It was precisely what Bona needed.
Ikpeze, the 6-foot-10, 245-pound beast from Amherst High and Schmidt's latest project, had 12 points and eight rebounds in his second start of the season. Taqqee had nine points in the first half while Richmond attempted to slow down Adams and Mobley. Ngalakulondi started an 8-0 run to end the first half.
St. Bonaventure's job was made easier by the absence of Richmond guard De'Monte Buckingham, who was hospitalized after suffering from severe cramps in the win over Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday. Buckingham ran the offense and was the Spiders' third-leading scorer for a team that had won six of seven games.
Stockard, a 6-5 forward from St. Louis, had a broken bone in his foot, an injury similar to what Sammy Watkins suffered with the Bills, that cost him the previous two seasons. He might have made the difference two years ago, when the Bonnies won a share of the A-10 title but was snubbed for the NCAA Tournament.
You better believe he's hungry.
"I've been playing basketball for as long as I can remember," Stockard said. "To have it taken away from you, it opened my eyes and made me more grateful I don't want to take it for granted. I want to give it all I got and leave it out on the floor."
Stockard isn't blessed with the offensive talent possessed by Adams and Mobley, but he's a solid all-around player. He's a tireless rebounder and defender and physical player who often starts the fast break. He knows how to penetrate and draw defenses to him before he kicks the ball to the perimeter.
In the end, it was fitting that most eyes were on Adams when he stepped to the foul line with 1:07 remaining and made two free throws during garbage time. On the opposite end, Stockard and Ikpeze were smiling at the student section while showing off their biceps and letting everyone know they were happy to take out the trash.
"We're willing to do whatever we can in order to win," Stockard said. "I feel like we have everybody on board. Everybody has bought in. We have that one big goal of getting to the NCAA Tournament."