ALLEGANY – St. Bonaventure pulled off its biggest win of the year Friday and jacked up its expectations even higher for the final month of the college basketball season.
The Bonnies upset 16th-ranked Rhode Island, 77-74, for their eighth straight victory. The result snapped Rhode Island's 16-game win streak, tied for longest in the nation, and it was the Rams' first conference defeat of the year.
Junior forward LaDarien Griffin blocked a shot by Rhode Island star Jared Terrell with 5 seconds left to preserve the win. The Bona students stormed the court after the buzzer.
Griffin put Bona ahead for good, 75-74, on a slam dunk off a pretty feed from Jay Adams with 20.5 seconds left.
The win rekindles Bona's underdog hopes at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament – if the Bonnies do not get the automatic bid by winning the A-10 Tournament.
Bona entered the game ranked 40th in the Ratings Percentage Index, a key metric (among many) used in picking at-large teams. The Bonnies will move up. Bona was No. 29 in the RPI two years ago when it was snubbed by the NCAAs after losing in the quarterfinals of the A-10 tournament.
Bona improved to 6-3 against teams in the top-100 this season. If Bona can win out over the last four regular season games and get to the A-10 final, it will have a viable at-large argument.
Bona improved to 20-6 overall and 10-4 in conference. The Rams are 21-4 and 13-1.
Bona won despite the fact Adams, averaging 20.5 points a game, managed just 10 points. Rhode Island held him to just 2 of 12 shooting by swarming him with double-teams as Bona set up its offense.
Senior guard Matt Mobley led the Bonnies with 26 points. Rhode Island was led by Terrell, who scored 23 points. Senior wing E.C. Matthews had 14.
Still out: Bona sophomore forward Jay Ayeni sat out his second straight game due to a suspension for violating team rules. He lost his starting job in mid-January and is averaging 6.7 ppg. He saw only 12 minutes a game the last three games he played.
Climbing Bona lists: Adams entered the game ranked seventh on Bona's all-time scoring list at 1,767 points. Essie Hollis, who helped Bona to the NIT title in 1977, is sixth at 1,798. Tom Stith, Class of '61, is fifth at 2,052. Adams needed 24 three-pointers to pass Marques Green as the all-time leader in that category. Green had 281. Adams stands third on the assists list at 545.
Rhody ranking: Besides being 16th in the Associated Press poll, the Rams are No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. It's the highest in-season ranking in either poll in school history.
Ranked games: Bona is 4-12 against ranked teams in Mark Schmidt's 11-year tenure. However, the Bonnies had won the last four against ranked teams, going back tot he 2013-14 season. The last win was a 77-72 decision at Dayton two years ago. All-time, Bona is 13-59 against top-25 teams.
Series: Rhode Island entered the game with a 39-28 series edge, including wins in five of the last six. The Rams beat Bona, 87-73, on Jan. 13.
In the house: Attendance was about 5,480.
Up next: Bona plays host to Duquesne on Wednesday. The Bonnies beat the Dukes, 84-81, on Feb. 3. Duquesne (6-7) is tied for seventh in the A-10. Rhode Island visits LaSalle on Tuesday.
Story topics: St. Bonaventure