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Bonnies, La Salle Meet in A10 Second Round

Photo by Dan Nelligan

It’s finally time for the 2024 Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. The Bonnies struggled in the final week of the season and fell from potentially the fourth seed to the seventh seed. That means a Wednesday for the second straight season. Last season the Bonnies had to play in the 8/9 game at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday and fell flat against Davidson. This time, Bonas will be playing in the third game of the day in the early evening against a La Salle team that they have already lost to this season. Here’s all you need to know as the Atlantic 10 Tournament gets into full swing.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure enters the Atlantic 10 Tournament 18-12 overall, 9-9 in conference play and the seventh seed. The Bonnies have dropped two straight and three of the last five games coming into the tournament. Chad Venning continues to be the leading scorer for this team as he puts up 14.0 points per game. The redshirt junior also averages 5.0 rebounds per game to go with a team leading 87 total made free throws and 51 blocks.

Mike Adams-Woods and Charles Pride are the only other Bonnies averaging double figures. Adams-Woods scores 13.0 points per game to go with 47 threes, an 82.7% free throw percentage and a team-high 105 assists. Pride averages 11.0 points and a team-best 5.7 rebounds per game. The Bryant transfer also shoots 83.6% from the line while leading the team in steals with 31.

Moses Flowers and Daryl Banks III continue to successfully platoon. Flowers averages 9.9 points per game while Banks scores 9.1 points per contest. Flowers adds 24 steals and a team-best 52 made threes to his stat line. Banks chips in 73 assists, 48 triples and a team-high 86.8% free throw percentage. Assa Essamvous remains an imprint piece for this team. The sophomore scores 7.4 points per game while also hauling in 5.2 rebounds per contest. Assa adds 26 steals and 40 threes as well.

Noel Brown, Barry Evans and Kyrell Luc round out Schmidt’s bench. Brown averages 5.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in relief of Venning. Evans scores 3.3 points and grabs 5.0 rebounds per contest while also contributing 38 assists, 29 steals, 16 blocks and a ton of energy. Luc averages 2.2 points per game and 23 total assists.

The Bonnies currently sit 82nd in the NET Rankings and 97th in the KenPom Ratings. The Explores will face a quadrant two opponent this evening.

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

The Opponent

The Explorers 61-60 yesterday afternoon to advance to the second round of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. La Salle carries a 16-16 overall and 6-12 conference record into today’s game. The Explorers are a perfect 2-0 on a neutral court this season with wins over Penn and George Washington.

La Salle is led by the dynamic guard duo of Khalil Brantley and Jhamir Brickus. Brantley leads the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game while also grabbing 4.6 rebounds per contest. The junior adds 93 assists and 33 steals to his line along with shooting 114/297 (38.4) from the field, 27/96 (28.1%) from three and 77/100 (77.0%) from the line. Brickus averages 14.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. The senior chips in a team-best 111 assists and 33 steals to go along with shooting clips of 110/242 (45.5%) from the floor, 45/106 (42.5%) from deep and 61/72 (84.7%) from the free throw line.

Daeshon Shepherd and Anwar Gill are the other Explorers to play an average of at least 28 minutes per night. Shepherd, a 6-foot-5 guard, averages 9.6 points and a team-high 5.7 rebounds per game. Gill, a 6-foot-4 guard, scores 9.5 points and grabs 3.6 rebounds per game. The senior has registered 52 assists and 25 steals to his stat line.

Three other players average more than 20 minutes per contest. Andres Marrero, a 6-foot-5 guard, averages 8.8 points per game and is 49/121 (40.5%) from deep this season. Rokas Jocius, a 6-foot-10 forward, averages 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. The sophomore also adds a team-high 21 blocks to his stat line. Tunde Vahlberg Fasasi, a 6-foot-8 forward, scores 6.1 points per contest and chips in 17 blocks and 16 assists. Ryan Zan is the final player who could see action as he averages 3.5 points and 12.1 minutes per game.

The Explorers currently sit 195th in the NET Rankings and 199th in the KenPom Ratings. The Bonnies can grab a quadrant three win if they advance tomorrow evening.

Projected Starting Five: Brickus, Brantley, Shepherd, Vahlberg Fasasi, Jocius

Players to Watch

Chad Venning – Venning has been the number one option in Mark Schmidt’s offense all season and had his way in the first meeting between these teams. While the center dropped 22 in the loss, he was limited to just 25 minutes due to foul trouble. La Salle, like many other A10 teams without an elite big man, struggled with Venning in the paint. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the Bonnies can ride him to a win.

Daeshon Shepherd – Bonaventure held Brantley to six points and kept Brickus at 15-point average in the matchup earlier this season. Instead of Brickus bombing in threes, it was the inconsistent depth scoring of the Explorers that killed the Bonnies a few weeks ago. Shepherd was responsible for a team-high 23 points, seven rebounds and four made threes in that victory. The Bonnies must do a better job of guarding Shepherd if they want to advance this evening.

Previous Meeting

The Explorers defeated the Bonnies 72-59 on February 21. Shepherd led all scorers with 23 points while Venning added 22. Brickus (15 points) and Vahlberg Fasasi (10) along with Flowers (14) were the only other players in double figures. Bonaventure shot 43.8% from the floor, 35.3% (6/17) from deep and 68.8% (11/16) from the line in the game while La Salle went 51.0% from the field, 41.7% (10/24) from three and 71.4% (10/14) from the line. The Explorers outrebounded the Bonnies 30-24 while registering nine turnovers compared to 10 from Bonas.

Prediction and Keys to the Game

This is it. It’s win and survive or lose and go home. This game actually scares me most of the potential four the Bonnies will have to win to cut down the nets. This team has been playing up to and down to its competition all year. I am expecting a good, old-fashioned Atlantic 10 rock fight this evening. If Venning can stay out of foul trouble the Bonnies should be able to feed him down low all night. However, the three-point shooting could very well determine this game. Whichever team is more efficient from deep will move on to play second-seeded Loyola Chicago. I reluctantly pick the Bonnies to squeak out a close one and move on to Thursday.


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