Tip-off: 2:30 p.m. Friday, Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Radio: WPIG 95.7 FM (Olean)
Records: No. 4 St. Bonaventure 16-15; No. 5 George Mason 18-14
Last time out: Courtney Stockard scored 20 points to help St. Bonaventure rally for a 66-57 victory against Saint Louis in the regular-season finale at the Reilly Center. The Bonnies trailed 27-22 at halftime, but managed to keep the score close before a late surge. The victory secured a double bye in the A-10 tournament. Kyle Lofton scored 14 points, Ladarien Griffin added 10 – all in the second half – to go with three blocks, and Osun Osunniyi and Dominick Welch each scored nine. Osunniyi also contributed a team-high six rebounds and three blocks.
No. 5-seeded George Mason defeated No. 12 George Washington 61-57 in the second round of the conference tournament Thursday, allowing the Patriots to advance to a matchup with St. Bonaventure. Justin Kier erupted for 26 points and eight rebounds to lead George Mason, Otis Livingston II added 12 points and Jarred Reuter grabbed 10 rebounds. Livingston hit a 3-pointer to give George Mason a 55-54 lead with 2:53 remaining. GW didn't score again until Terry Nolan Jr. hit a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 59-57, but only three seconds remained. Jamal Hartwell II hit a pair of free throws to secure the win.
History: The teams split the regular-season series. George Mason defeated St. Bonaventure 68-53 on Jan. 6 in the A-10 opener in Fairfax, Va., dropping the Bonnies' record to 4-10. But Bona defeated the Patriots 79-56 on Feb. 17 at the Reilly Center, the Bonnies' second victory in what became a seasonlong six-game winning streak. That triumph also gave St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt his 203rd victory at the school, making him the program’s all-time wins leader. Lofton had a career-high 32 points and seven assists in the game.
Leading the way: St. Bonaventure senior Stockard and freshmen Lofton and Osunniyi earned all-conference honors.
Stockard was named to the all-conference first team after leading the Bonnies in scoring at 15.6 points per game. He also averages 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.3 steals. It’s the fourth consecutive year the Bonnies have had a first-team player.
Lofton and Osunniyi were named to the all-rookie team, becoming the first Bona duo to receive the honor in the same season. Osunniyi also was named to the all-defensive team.
Lofton has started every game at point guard – the only freshman to start every game in coach Mark Schmidt’s 12 seasons – and rarely left the court. He has played an average of 37.2 minutes per game, second most in the A-10.
Osunniyi leads the A-10 and ranks seventh nationally (and tops among freshmen) with 81 blocked shots (2.6 per game). He needs one block to break St. Bonaventure’s freshman record for blocks in a season of 81 set by Andrew Nicholson in 2008-09.
Exceeding expectations: St. Bonaventure, which lost three starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team to graduation, was picked to finish ninth in the A-10 preseason poll. The Bonnies struggled with injuries for much of the first half of the season, but won seven of their final eight games to finish fourth in the A-10 and earn the double bye in the conference tournament. Bona has finished in the top four in three of the last four seasons.
Terrific turnaround: St. Bonaventure resuscitated its season after beginning the year with a 4-10 record following its loss at George Mason on Jan. 6. The Bonnies have since gone 12-5 to boost their record to 16-15 and push their winning percentage above .500.
Going streaking: St. Bonaventure has recorded double-digit conference victories for five consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the A-10.
The Bonnies have reached the conference quarterfinals in each of the last four seasons. They have an 8-17 record in the quarterfinals, but a 12-5 mark in tournament games for which they're the higher seed.
Schmidt all-time leader: Schmidt became the program’s all-time leader in wins this season, his 12th at the school, in the most recent matchup with George Mason. His 203rd victory, against the Patriots on Feb. 17, surpassed Larry Weise’s mark of 202 that had stood since 1973. He has 208 career victories at St. Bonaventure.
Schmidt is 9-8 in A-10 tournament games with one championship (2012).
Next: The winner advances to a semifinal matchup against the winner between No. 1 VCU and No. 8 Rhode Island at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.