St. Bonaventure defeated Virginia Commonwealth University 89-78 Wednesday. The Bonnies rode Chad Venning’s 19 points along with stellar three-point and free throw shooting to victory to open Atlantic 10 play. Five Bona players scored in double figures as the team led throughout most of the fast-paced contest. Here’s how the massive road win to open conference play went down.
After three empty possessions to open the game, the Bonnies were able to grab an offensive rebound and kick to Assa Essamvous for a straight-away triple. Following that shot, the teams were off and running. The Bonnies grabbed the next two points on a pair of Charles Pride free throws. Sean Bairstow got the Rams on the board with a layup before Venning answered off a nice Daryl Banks pass on the other end.
Turnovers and blocks dominated the next few possessions before Kuany Kuany cashed a three of his own. The Bonnies once again immediately answer the Rams as Pride got a three to rattle home. Kuany’s jumper was then cancelled out by an emphatic Venning dunk as the game hit the first media timeout. St. Bonaventure led 12-7.
Mark Schmidt went to his bench on the other side of the timeout as Noel Brown was whistled for a foul on his first defensive possession of the game. Christian Fermin would make both his free throws. The Bonnies initially came up empty on the ensuing possession, but a fantastic hustle play by Barry Evans gave the offense an extra look. Pride cashed in with a deep three thanks to Evans’ hustle. The Rams would punch right back as Joe Bamisile got on the scoresheet with a triple. Kyrell Luc then made his first impact of the evening with a running shot from the baseline before Fermin grabbed a layup of his own. The Bonnies led 17-14 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
The pace of the game then picked up even more. St. Bonaventure began consistently getting into the paint and locked down on the defensive end to go on an 8-2 run. Venning, Luc and Banks all contributed for the Bonnies while Jason Nelson had the only points for the Rams. VCU head coach Ryan Odom then called the timeout to settle things down. The pause in action worked initially as Toibu Lawal caught a lob from Alphonzo Billups III. However, Bonas would once again have an immediate answer for the Rams as Assa grabbed what was ruled as an offensive rebound and bulldozed down the lane for the one-handed slam. Zeb Jackson netted a three on the next possession, but Bonaventure punched back again. Venning grabbed an easy layup before Banks splashed one in from beyond the arc. The Bonnies now led 32-21.
Kuany cashed a pair of free throws following the made three but was once again immediately answered by an ally-oop thrown by Banks to Evans. After a strong defensive possession, Mika Adams-Woods cashed a deep three to push the lead to 14. This time it was VCU’s time to punch back. Kuany made a three before Shulga made one of two free throws and a layup. Bairstow then got to the bucket to put the Rams on an 8-0 run and cut the lead back to six.
Coach Schmidt took the timeout, as Odom did earlier in the half, to break the Ram run. The break worked as Venning got the bucket and the foul. He would miss his and-one free throw, but the Bonnies would quickly get the ball back as Banks drew the offensive foul. Banks then took care of business on the offensive end with a straight-away three. The lead was suddenly back to 11.
The back-and-forth half continued as time dwindled. VCU saw Bairstow find a layup and Fermin cash in a pair from the line. Bairstow then drew the foul on Venning and made one of two free throws. The Bonnies had the last shot attempt of the half as Venning chucked up a deep two off a loose ball that went in. The game’s first 20 minutes ended with St. Bonaventure leading 44-36.
Venning led all scorers in the first half with 14 points. VCU’s Kuany trailed close behind with 10 points and was the only other scorer in double figures in the half. Other notable scorers in the first 20 minutes were Banks and Pride with eight each, Bairstow with seven and Fermin with six.
The Rams were 12/25 (38.0%) from the field, 4/9 (44.9%) from deep and 8/11 (72.7%) from the free throw line in the first half. The Bonnies shot 18/37 (48.6%) from the floor, 6/11 (54.5%) from beyond the arc and 2/5 from the charity stripe. Both teams grabbed 18 rebounds in the first half while the Bonnies only turned the ball over three times compared to VCU’s eight.
The teams picked up right where they left off to begin the second half with four straight made shots. Kuany knocked down a three on the opening possession before Assa answered from nearly the same spot on the floor. Bairstow then immediately hit a mid-range before Assa banged another triple. The feverish pace would temporarily slow as the whistles came out. Adams-Woods hit one of his two free throws before Pride and Shulga traded buckets. Venning then went 50% from the stripe and Shulga made a pair. The Bonnies had extended the lead to 54-45 as the action went to a media timeout.
The whistles continued immediately following the break. Adams-Woods worked his way to the line and cashed both. After a stop, the Bonnies struck again with a triple from Flowers. The lead was back to its largest of the night at 14. Lawal flushed a dunk for the Rams before Adams-Woods once again worked his way to the line. After making two more free throws, the graduate transfer netted the team’s 10th made three of the night. The Rams called another timeout as the Bonnies now led by a game-high 17 points. Shulga took a deep, ill-advised three out of the timeout before Brown got into the scorebook. Nelson then cashed a corner three to cut the lead back to 16 as the game hit the under-12 timeout.
Banks got the call on a designed look out of the timeout but missed the triple. The Rams grabbed the rebound and Billups quickly made a three of his own. After a solid defensive possession, Jackson swished one from deep to put VCU on a 9-0 run. The Bonnies desperately needed to stop the Ram run with a big bucket. Assa would come through, splashing his fourth threeball of the game to push the lead back to 13. Billups and Luc then traded mid-ranges before Jackson got to the hole and drew the foul. He missed his free throw as the Bonnies led 71-60 with under eight minutes to go.
After a rare scoreless spell of nearly 1:30, Nelson grabbed a bucket to cut the Bonaventure lead down to single digits. With the crowd up and loud inside the Siegel Center, Pride launched a deep triple to push the lead back to 12. Bonas continued to make big shots which did not allow the Rams to get fully back into the ballgame. Jackson and the Rams answered with a layup before Odom called another timeout. The Bonnies would then feast on free throws over the next few minutes. Venning went 2/2 and Adams-Woods went 3/4 from the line to push the lead back to 15.
Bonaventure would then get sloppy with the basketball for the first time in the game. The Bonnies turned the ball over on four straight possessions which led to dunks by Bamisile and Bairstow along with a pair of Fermin free throws. Schmidt’s team responded once again as Adams-Woods tossed the lob to Venning underneath. The Rams continued to fight as Jackson completed the traditional three-point play pushing VCU’s deficit down to eight.
The foul game was on as the clock crept below 90 seconds as Banks was fouled and hit both his free throws. Shulga turned the ball over on the following possession which allowed Bonas to run some clock. The Rams eventually fouled Pride who made both his shots. Fermin grabbed a quick and-one layup before Adams-Woods knocked down both his free throws. Fermin and Pride then traded points as the Bonnies continued to knock down free throws.
The score officially went final as the Bonnies took the key road game 89-78. Bonaventure had five different scorers in double figures. Venning led the team and the game with 19 points. Pride’s 17 and Adams-Woods’ 16 points were also more than any Ram had collected. Assa and Banks were the other Bonnies in double figures with 14 and 10 points respectively. VCU was led by Fermin with 15 points while Kuany finished with 13. Both Bairstow and Jackson tallied 11 points apiece.
The Rams shot 28/56 (50.0%) from the field, 8/21 (38.1%) from beyond the arc and 14/18 (77.8%) from the free throw line. The Bonnies ended 28/58 (48.3%) from the floor, 12/22 (54.5%) from three and 21/27 (77.8%) from the charity stripe. Bonas outrebounded VCU 35-29 while the Rams tallied 11 turnovers to Bonaventure’s eight.
St. Bonaventure improves to 10-3 while VCU drops to 8-6. The Bonnies also picked upt heir first conference win while the Rams drop to 0-1 in Atlantic 10 play. Bonas will remain in the Richmond area as the team will take on the Richmond Spiders Saturday at 4:00 p.m.