Photo by Dan Nelligan
St. Bonaventure travels to Brooklyn for the Legends Classic where the team will play a pair of games against power five opponents. The Bonnies will be joined in Brooklyn by the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Auburn Tigers. St. Bonaventure has enjoyed success in multiple-team events over the past few seasons, with victories in the Boca Beach Classic (2019), Charleston Classic (2021) and Gotham Classic (2022). Here is everything about Bona’s first opponent: the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
The Bonnies enter Brooklyn 1-1 after suffering a disappointing loss to Canisius College last weekend. The team has been led offensively by Charles Pride, Chad Venning and Mika Adams-Woods. Pride has played an average of 38.4 minutes per game while scoring 18.5 points and grabbing 8.0 rebounds per game. All three marks are team highs though the first two games. Venning (11.0) and Adams-Woods (10.5) are the only other Bonnies averaging in double figures so far while Assa Essamvous is averaging 9.5 points per game.
Head coach Mark Schmidt has been using his new-found depth early on. The 17th year head man has rolled out a nine-man rotation with all nine players averaging at least 12 minutes per game. St. Bonaventure has been outrebounded by its opponents through its first two games while showing it will live and die by the three when its inside scoring goes quiet. The Bonnies will have to play a hard, defensive 40 minutes along with receiving timely shooting to beat the Big 12 opponent.
Projected Starting Five: Assa, Adams-Woods, Banks, Pride, Venning
The Cowboys finished the 2022-23 season with a 20-16 record. Oklahoma State received a bid to the NIT where it bowed out in the quarterfinals to eventual champions North Texas. Head coach Mike Boynton lost five key pieces from last season’s squad. Avery Anderson (11.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.4 APG), Kalib Boone (10.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Caleb Asberry (9.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG) were the most notable losses for the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State will be returning both Bryce Thompson and John-Michael Wright who were major contributors last season. Thompson averaged 11.8 points over 30.5 minutes per game last season while Wright scored 9.8 points over 30.3 minutes per game in 2022-23.
Boynton and his staff will also welcome four transfers and three freshmen into the program. Javon Small and Jarius Hicklen have made an immediate impact so far. Small averaged 15.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds over 34.7 minutes per game last season at East Carolina. Hicklen averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists over 32.8 minutes per game last season at North Florida. The Cowboys also use three freshmen in their rotation. Eric Dailey Jr., Justin McBride and Brandon Garrison have all been in the rotation the first two games.
Oklahoma State’s best player so far has been Bryce Thompson. The 6-foot-6 senior is averaging 18 points over an average of 24 minutes in the first two games of the season. Small and Wright also had solid games last time out against Sam Houston potting 16 and 14 points each.
The Cowboys also have a bad loss themselves as Oklahoma State lost its opening night game 64-59 to Abilene Christian. Like the Bonnies in their loss, the Cowboys shot horrific from beyond the arc at 5/23 (21.7%) and only made 8/20 free throws. Oklahoma State has also been outrebounded this season and love the three having taken 56 shots from beyond the arc thus far.
Projected Starting Five: Thompson, Dailey Jr., Williams, Small, Wright
Players to Watch
Charles Pride - Pride has easily been St. Bonaventure’s best player this season. The graduate transfer has already proven to be a clutch-time player along with leading the Bonnies in most major statistical categories. Pride’s 18.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 38.4 minutes per game all lead the team in the early going. There will be at least one instance in tonight’s game where Pride takes over.
Bryce Thompson - The 6-foot-6 senior led the Cowboys in scoring last season and is off to a hot start to the 2023-24 season. Thompson is averaging 18 points per game over the first two games so far. Thompson also knocked down four threes on five tries in last weekend’s game against Sam Houston. Expect the guard to play a major role in tonight’s contest.
Prediction and Keys to the Game
The winner of this game will be the team who shoots the three best. Rebounding will also be a crucial part of this game but both teams have shown their ability to win games while being outrebounded. The Bonnies made 11 threes in game one before only making four in game two. Oklahoma State only made five shots from beyond the arc in its first game before launching 17 threes in game two. I see this trend continuing with St. Bonaventure being the team that gets hot from beyond the arc, propelling the team to a hard-fought victory. The Bonnies take this one home with a slim, three-to-five-point win.