As many folks are still enjoying their Sunday morning coffee, the 6-3 St. Bonaventure Bonnies will be looking to find a win in a tough neutral site test at the Barclays Center.
This will be the 17th meeting between the Bonnies and the Iona Gaels, with Bona currently out front by an 11-to-5 margin.
Iona is out to a 5-2 start this season. The Gaels are coming off of an impressive win against Bona's A10 rival St. Louis after easily handling Canisius by a score of 90-60. The Bonnies fell to Canisius almost a month earlier in a tough overtime battle on the road.
The Gaels are starting to hit a stride, rattling off three wins in a row ahead of their showdown with SBU in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational.
The team has four expected starters that average 27 or more minutes per game. Bona can expect Daniss Jenkins, Berrick JeanLouis, Walter Clayton Jr. and Nelly Junior Joseph to continue to see high minute volumes during their contest. Jenkins and Clayton Jr. have seen the largest success scoring for the Gaels of late.
To note, Iona's Quinn Slazinski has only played in two games so far this season due to an ankle injury. Slazinski, the Louisville transfer, averaged 18 points per game in his two contests for the Gaels. He is not expected to play against the Bonnies, as coach Rick Pitino recently reported that Slazinski will be out for an extended period.
Without Slazinski, Bona still needs to prepare for the Gaels other scoring threats. Each player in Iona's expected starting five is averaging 11 or more points per game this season. Iona is currently ranked 63rd in the country in scoring offense. A mark that is good for first in their conference.
Interestingly, the Bonnies scoring defense of late has impressed. They are currently allowing under 65 points per game. The Gaels are averaging close to 80 points per game, so Bona's must be able to force difficult scoring opportunities to keep that number down.
After the Bonnies handled a Cleveland State team who struggled to put much together from the field, going up against an offense that is used to scoring a large volume of points night in and night out won't be an easy task.
Let's look at three keys for Bona to find a victory against Iona in Brooklyn this Sunday.
Avoid early foul trouble in the frontcourt
Against Cleveland State, Yann Farrell picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game. Starting five man Chad Venning also picked up a foul in the first four minutes, causing coach Mark Schmidt to sub out both Farrell and Venning in hopes of minimizing early foul trouble.
Venning subbed back in a handful of minutes later before picking up his second personal at the nine-and-a-half-minute mark, causing Schmidt to bring him back to the bench.
In relief, Anouar Mellouk also found himself in first half foul trouble, logging three personals prior to the break. Schmidt looked to Pitt transfer Max Amadasun to help off the bench, who was able to provide a handful of solid minutes to get the Bonnies into the half.
This was a similar story for Bona in their loss against Buffalo, where Venning picked up two fouls in the first eight minutes. Due to fouls, he was forced to give up his standard minute share which tremendously hurt the Bonnies down low.
Venning's presence has been a welcome surprise for the new-look Bonnies roster. He moved into the starting lineup in game four and hasn't left since that point. Averaging close to a 60% field goal percentage, which is a solid threshold for the big man to stay in line with, Bona will need him on the floor as much as he can be.
Eliminate easy looks for Iona's Daniss Jenkins and Walter Clayton Jr.
Both Jenkins and Clayton Jr. are scoring at high rates for the Gaels. They are also shooting effectively from three, both averaging above 42% from deep.
The Bonnies, to some surprise, have one of the country's top perimeter defenses. Bona is currently ranked fourth in the nation in three point defense, allowing under 24% of their opponents shots to fall from deep.
Now, this may be a bit thanks to poor long range shooting from opponents. However, the Bonnies are consistently holding the opposition to an extremely low amount of made threes, which is thanks to their defensive efforts along the perimeter.
The only game in which a Bona opponent shot greater than 40% from three this year? The overtime loss against Canisius, where the Golden Griffins went 11 of 22 from deep.
Not allowing easy long range looks has resulted in success for Bona this season. They will need to carry this over against Iona, who is a good three point shooting team as a whole, with Jenkins and Clayton Jr. leading the way.
Clayton Jr. has scored 20 or more points in three of the Gaels last four games. If the Bonnies can find a way to stop him in the early going, Iona may be thrown off and will need to look elsewhere to find scoring.
Win the rebounding battle
Controlling the glass is something that SBU has been able to do more often than not this season, getting outrebounded in just 3 of 9 contests to this point. Two of those performances in which rebounding faltered came in losses to Buffalo and South Dakota State.
Venning, Farrell and freshman Barry Evans will work to get ahead on the glass early. Farrell is averaging a team best 8 rebounds per game, while Venning and Evans are averaging 5 boards a piece.
Notably, Evans had a strong performance on the glass in the previous game against Cleveland State, bringing in 9 rebounds. He was able to get some second chance opportunities thanks to doing some of that work on the offensive end. This was huge for the Bonnies as Venning, Farrell and Mellouk all had to take some time on the bench due to the aforementioned foul trouble.
Evans continuing to bring an additional rebounding presence for the Bonnies will be a huge help in hopes of controlling the boards. If this continues to be the case, Bona will have three starting rebounders that defenders will need to worry about in Evans, Venning and Farrell.
Cover photo courtesy of gobonnies.com