St. Bonaventure opened the 2023-24 regular season with a 73-69 win at home over Longwood University.
The Bonnies were off and running three minutes into the game as Chad Venning had his way early on. Venning scored the first three buckets for St. Bonaventure, all coming in the paint. However, Venning and the Bonnies quickly got themselves into foul trouble. The center picked up three fouls in the first five minutes and the Bonnies entered a 5:17 scoring drought.
The Lancers took advantage of both the lack of Bonaventure scoring and trips to the free throw line, opening a 12-6 lead. Eight of Longwood’s first 12 points came via free throws. Noel Brown would be the guy to break the drought with a layup at 12:27 remaining in the half. Transfers Charles Pride and Mika Adams-Woods would help pick up the scoring following the Brown layup. Both the teams continued to trade baskets as shots began to fall consistently for both sides.
With 5:25 left in the first half, Pride knocked down a three to tie the game at 24. Barry Evan and Noel Brown then stepped up. Evans hit a step-back, mid-range and a three while Brown laid in two more from inside the paint. St. Bonaventure ended the first half on a 9-2 run and took a 35-30 lead into the halftime locker room. Jonathan Massie’s 10 first-half points led the Lancers while Szymon Zapala had 8 at the break. Pride’s nine first-half points lead the Bonnies at the half while Venning’s six points in four minutes were tied for second with Brown.
Longwood began the second half with new life, rattling off six straight and eight of 11 points to re-tie the game, this time at 38 apiece. Pride and Assa then took over for the Bonnies offensively as the threes began to rain down. This prompted Griff Aldrich to take a timeout as Longwood now trailed 48-40. The team then began trading buckets with neither side being able to score more than five points in a row. Massie and Zapala became the main contributors for Longwood, while Assa and Pride kept filling the bucket for the Bonnies.
The Lancers would not go away, as Bonaventure watched its lead grow smaller as the game went under eight minutes remaining. Longwood then took its first lead since 18:07 in the half, as Zapala took it to the rack and put the Lancers up 62-61 with 4:15 remaining.
The final four minutes would be a back-and-forth affair. Pride completed a three-point play, taking him to 18 points on the night and giving the Bonnies a two-point lead. Massie then knocked down two free throws of his own to re-tie the game at 64. Pride would knock down a go-ahead three, but was yet again answered by Zapala and Massie who tied the game at 67.
The Bonnies responded with Kyrell Luc driving to the hole and getting home for the go-ahead layup. The Lancers came up empty as Venning blocked Napper following the Longwood timeout. Venning would then be blocked on the offensive end by Zapala. The Lancers had a chance to tie or take the lead with less than 30 seconds left, but were shut down by Luc who came away with the steal. He was then fouled and made both his free throws to put the Bonnies up four. After a pair of Banks free throws and a Napper layup as time expired, the score went final with Bonaventure sneaking away with a 73-69 win.
Charles Pride led the way for Bonaventure, notching 21 points in his debut. Assa Essamvous was second on the Bonnies with 12 points tonight. Jonathan Massie and Szymon Zapala led the way for Longwood with 23 and 20 points, respectively. Bonaventure shot 27.59 (45.8%) from the floor tonight while making 11 threes. Longwood shot 24.61 (39.3%) from the floor while only making three shots from distance. The Lancers did most of their damage from the free throw line and on the boards as Longwood was 18-25 from the stripe and outrebounded the Bonnies 45-29.
Coach Mark Schmidt gave high praise to Massie and Zapala after the game, saying they “play with the quality of A10 players.” The 17th year coach also had only good things to say about Brown’s role with Venning in foul trouble. “Noel came in and gave us a lift. He did a really good job, especially defensively,” said Schmidt.
Kyrell Luc played a major role down the stretch with the game-winning layup and free throws along with a clutch steal. It was an interesting decision on who would get those crunch time minutes: Luc or Adams-Woods. “He has more command of the offense right now. They were pressing us high towards the end and we went with the guy (Luc) we know can get the job done,” said Schmidt.
Both Pride and Brown also had high praise for the Reilly Center crowd. “I’ve heard a lot about this place, it was pretty crazy in here tonight,” said Pride. Brown has experienced the RC before with his time at George Washington. “I knew the crowd was great from my time at GW. It really gives you the extra motivation to dig in and play hard,” said Brown.
Pride added about the team’s initial scoring troubles early on tonight. “It was just a matter of execution for us. Shots weren’t falling early. We just stuck with it and knew they would fall eventually,” said Pride. The Bonnies are back in action Saturday in the Rielly Center against Canisus at 4:00 p.m.