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Bonas Welcome 1st Place Ramblers to Reilly Center

Photo by Dan Nelligan

The Bonnies have a tough task ahead of them this evening as the first-place Loyola Chicago Ramblers come to town. St. Bonaventure have an impressive 10-3 home record to go along with an 8-8 record following a win this season. Loyola brings a 6-3 road record into tonight’s game and a 14-6 record following a win in 2023-24. This matchup has all the makings of being an instant classic while also serving as a trap game for the Ramblers prior to hosting Dayton on Friday night.

The Bonnies

Mark Schmidt’s team enters tonight’s game at 17-10 overall and 8-7 in Atlantic 10 play. The Bonnies currently sit in 5th place in the conference and would possess a single bye if the A10 Tournament started today. St. Bonaventure has been led by Chad Venning this season. The redshirt junior leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and blocks with 49 in 27 games. Venning chips in 5.0 rebounds per game as well.

Mika Adams-Woods and Charles Pride continue to lead the Bonaventure guards. Adams-Woods averages 13.3 points per game while also leading the team in assists with 97. The Cincinnati transfer also adds 25 steals and 45 threes to his score line. Pride scores 11.6 points and a team-high 6.1 boards per contest. The Bryant transfer has 43 assists, 35 triples and 29 steals on the season as well.

Moses Flowers and Daryl Banks III have proven effective in their platoon role. Flowers has put together a few solid games in a row after going through a mid-season lull. The redshirt senior averages 9.5 points per game to go along with 29 assists, 18 steals and 45 made threes. Banks scores 8.3 points per contes while chipping in 71 assists, 19 steals and 39 triples in his 27 appearances. Assa Essamvous has also come on strong as the year has progressed. The sophomore contributes 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Assa adds 27 assists, 26 steals, 37 threes and 27 starts.

Noel Brown, Barry Evans and Kyrell Luc will also be factors tonight. Brown averages 5.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per contest in relief of Venning. Evans has contributed all over the stat sheet this season. He adds 33 assists, 29 steals and 11 blocks to his 3.3 scoring and 5.0 rebounding averages. Luc throws in 2.4 points per game and 22 assists in his 21 games.

The Bonnies currently sit 71st in the NET Rankings and 82nd in the KenPom Ratings. The Ramblers will have a chance to pick up a quadrant one victory this evening.

Projected Starting Five: Assa, Adams-Woods, Flowers, Pride, Venning

The Opponent

Loyola Chicago enters tonight’s game with a 20-7 overall and 12-2 conference record. The Ramblers are currently tied for first in the Atlantic 10 with only four games to play. Some notable results for Loyola this season include losses to Florida Atlantic, Creighton, South Florida, Richmond and VCU along with wins over Boston College, Harvard, George Mason twice, UMass and St. Joe’s twice.

Third-year head coach Drew Valentine has adapted his team to the A10 in short order after struggling last season. Valentine brought in four key transfers to Loyola’s 10-11-man rotation. Of those transfers, Des Watson has been the most impactful. The former Davidson Wildcat guard leads the Ramblers scoring 12.9 points per game. The 6-foot-5 guard also adds 61 assists, 24 steals, 49 threes (41.2%) and 4.6 rebounds per contest.

Forward Philip Alston shares the team lead in scoring as he also averages 12.9 points per game. The 6-foot-6 senior chips in 21 assists, 15 blocks, 14 steals and 4.4 rebounds per contest. Loyola has three other scorers averaging more than eight points per game. Dame Adelekun scores 9.3 points and grabs 4.1 rebound each time he takes the floor. The 6-foot-8 forward also tallies 25 blocks, 24 assists and 16 steals. Braden Norris averages 8.6 points per game. The 6-foot guard boasts team-highs with a 91.1% free throw percentage and 131 assists. Jayden Dawson averages 8.2 points per contest, 29 assists and 22 steals.

Sheldon Edwards and Miles Rubin make up the middle of the pack players for Valentine’s team. Edwards stands at 6-foot-4 while averaging 6.6 points per game while being an above-average free throw shooter. Rubin scores 5.9 points and grabs 4.6 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-10 freshman leads the team in blocks with 57. Jalen Quinn (4.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG), Greg Dolan (4.2 PPG, 2.3 PRG), Parick Mwamba (2.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG) and Tom Welch (2.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG) are also likely to be heard from in some capacity tonight.

The Ramblers come into tonight’s game at 92nd in the NET Rankings and 96th in the KenPom Ratings. The Bonnies have an opportunity to grab a quadrant two victory this evening.

Projected Starting Five: Watson, Norris, Edwards, Alston, Rubin

Players to Watch

Daryl Banks III – Loyola Chicago consistently takes away their opponent’s best scorers. Do not be surprised if two of Venning, Pride and Adams-Woods have lower-scoring days. That is why the secondary scoring will need to step up for the Bonnies. With Flowers and Assa playing well recently, it feels like Banks will be next to get in on the act. If the Ramblers take away Schmidt’s top options, expect the depth to lead the team in scoring.

Des Watson – Watson has started all 27 games for the Ramblers this season en route to tying for the team’s lead in points (12.9 PPG) and rebounding (4.6 RPG). Watson is part of the dynamic guard rotation Loyola puts on the floor. At 6-foot-5, Watson gets to the rim as he has attempted a whopping 281 free throws this season. The Davidson transfer can also shoot it as he is 60/88 from deep as well. If the Bonnies want to win tonight, they must limit Watson.

Last Season’s Matchup

The Ramblers defeated the Bonnies last season in the first ever meeting between the schools. Welch led Loyola with 16 points in the 67-55 victory while three other Ramblers were in double figures. Venning was the only Bonnies with more than seven points as he totaled 16 in the loss. Bonaventure both outrebounded and had less turnovers than Lyola in the win but shot horrible from the floor. The Bonnies went 31.1% (19/61) from the floor and 18.2% (4/22) from deep in the loss while the Ramblers shot 51.1% (23/45) from the field but only 26.3% (5/19) from three.

Prediction and Keys to the Game

Coach Schmidt will have his hands full as the Ramblers consistently take away their opponent’s best scorers. Unfortunately for Bonas, the 17th year head coach has been extremely reluctant to adjust his offense this season. Tonight’s result will likely depend on the depth scoring from the Bonnies. Players like Banks, Flowers and Assa will need to produce like they consistently did last season for Bonaventure to come away victorious. On the defensive end, the Bonnies need to limit both Watson and Alston who have clearly been the best scores for the Ramblers this season.

At the end of the day, I do not think Schmidt can adjust his offensive game plan to where it needs to be to beat a very good team. Loyola wins a rock fight in the Reilly Center by five-to-eight points.


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