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Bonnies Overcome 20-Point Deficit, Stun VCU

Photo by Dan Nelligan

St. Bonaventure defeated Virginia Commonwealth University 67-62 tonight. The Bonnies trailed by 20 points late in the first half before coming from behind to win the game. Both Mark Schmidt and his players credited the comeback effort to 7-0 to shift the momentum of the game late in the opening half. VCU’s Max Shulga led all scores with 25 points while four Bonnies scored in double figures. Here’s how tonight’s contest went down in a tale of two completely different halves.

The Rams got off to a hot start tonight as Jason Nelson grabbed the first points of the game and began a 7-0 VCU run. Zeb Jackson’s triple and Max Shulga’s jumper also contributed to the quick start. The Bonnies would finally get on the board as Kyrell Luc made a pair of free throws. Kuany Kuany and the Rams swiftly went back to work on the other end as the 6-foot-9 graduate student cashed in on a traditional three-point play at the rim. Charles Pride’s floater would push the Bonnies within six early as the game went to its first media timeout.

The Rams continued to score following the timeout as Shulga added to his team lead in three pointers. Barry Evans then flushed the dunk on the next possession before the Bonnies showed some pressure. The pressure worked as it led to a steal and another Evans bucket. However, VCU would again respond quickly as Jackson potted a three before Shulga hit another from deep. The Rams led 19-8.

Venning worked his way to the free throw line for a pair before Shulga netted his third triple of the first half. Assa Essamvous then got himself on the score sheet with a turnaround midrange to cut the Ram lead back down to 10. However, VCU punched right back with another bomb from beyond the arc. This time it was Joe Bamisile with the make. Noel Brown was able to grab an offensive board and slam it home on the following possession as the game ticked under eight minutes to go in the first half. VCU led 25-14.

Assa missed a three before Venning grabbed the offensive rebound. He kicked back to Assa who went to the rack and was fouled. He made both his free throws as the Bonnies continued to search for consistency. Shulga continued to stay hot as he sank his fourth and fifth threes of the game. Mark Schmidt would call the timeout to settle things down. Shulga had 17 points just 14:22 into the game. The Bonnies continued to look dysfunctional as an offense following the timeout as the Rams continued to score. Bamisile was the next to get a bucket before Venning worked his way to the line. He made one of his two attempts before Kuany got into the three-point party on the other end. St. Bonaventure trailed 36-17 with under four minutes left in the first half.

Banks knocked down a pair of free throws out of the timeout before Bamisile hit VCU’s 10th three of the game. Banks then found his first field goal of the night with a pull-up jumper. The Bonnies then began to show some life, forcing a shot clock violation and getting a Mika Adams-Woods three. It was the first Bonaventure made three and came with 1:06 left in the first half. Adams-Woods added a jumper to end the half with the Bonnies on a 9-2 and 7-0 run to cut the Ram lead down to 13. VCU led 39-26 at the break.

Shulga led all scorers at the break with 17 points. Bamisile (8), Kuany (6) and Jackson (6) all had more points than any Bonnie. Adams-Woods led St. Bonaventure with five points at halftime. The Rams shot 14/26 (53.8%) from the field, 10/15 (66.7%) from deep and 1/1 from the line in the first half. The Bonnies were 8/27 (29.6%) from the floor, 1/10 (10.0%) from three and 9/10 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes. Bonas outrebounded the Rams 17-15 while VCU turned the ball over seven times compared to Bonaventure’s five.

The Bonnies struck first in the second half as Luc buried the triple to cut the lead down to 10. However, Shulga quickly picked up where he left off as he cashed in the three on the other end. Luc would score again a few possessions later with a driving layup before Assa hit the midrange jumper. Jackson and Assa then traded buckets as the game hit the first media timeout of the second half with VCU leading 44-35. After a handful of empty possessions, Venning grabbed a board and a hook in close to cut the Ram lead to seven. This prompted VCU head coach Ryan Odom to use the timeout.

The Bonnies forced Shulga to travel following Odom’s timeout but came up empty on the ensuing possession. However, Bonaventure continued to play stout defense grabbing another stop which led to an Assa triple. Shulga would add a layup quickly following the Assa bucket, but the Bonnies answered right back with an Adams-Woods three pointer. The teams went to the under-12 media timeout with the Ram lead cut all the way down to three at 46-43.

VCU came out of the timeout and converted with Kuany in close before Adams-Woods was fouled in the act of shooting. The graduate transfer from Cincinnati made one of his two free throws. Bamisile then threw down a monster slam and got the foul on top. He made his free throw to push the VCU lead back to seven. Next it was Banks who found two with a foul-line jumper, but the Rams immediately went back to the line. It was the fourth foul of the game on Assa and Toibu Lawal made one of his free throws. Venning then scored with some assistance from the glass as Adams-Woods did the same shortly after. The Bonnies only trailed by two.

The Rams would commit a shot clock violation on the following possession which led to Venning throwing down a vicious two-handed slam to tie the game for the first time since 0-0. Shulga would work his way to the line immediately after the dunk and sink both his free throws. Next it was Banks earning his way to the line and making both. The foul was Shulga’s fourth of the game. Bamisile and Venning traded baskets following the free throws as the game moved under five minutes to play tied at 56.

Daryl Banks gave the Bonnies their first lead of the game with 4:35 remaining as he hit his first three of the evening. However, the Rams would not roll over. Kuany hit a pair of free throws before Jackson got the hole and laid in an and-one layup. He made his free throw to put VCU up 61-60 with 3:59 left in the game.

After both teams came up empty, Banks was fouled on the floor where he’d get a one-and-one opportunity. Banks sunk both free throws to knot the game up once again with 2:36 remaining. The chess match was now on between Odom and Schmidt as both began to feverishly sub players to matchup with each other. Bamisile missed the smothered three on one end before Adams-Woods traveled on the other. The game remained tied at 61 with now under two minutes left.

Shulga would work on Flowers on the following possession and work his way to the free throw line. He missed the first shot but made the second to put the Rams back up 62-61. Next it was Bonaventure’s turn to get to the line as Pride grabbed an offensive board and was fouled on the floor. He was awarded a one-and-one and sunk both to put the Bonnies on top 63-62. Bamisile then forced another smothered three which he missed, and Flowers hauled in the rebound.

The Rams opted not to foul with just about a minute remaining in the game. The Bonnies bled the shot clock down as Adams-Woods missed the forced three. Shulga grabbed the rebound with just over 30 seconds left and rifled it up the floor. From there, it was a free ball for the next 10 seconds. When the dust settled the Bonnies had the ball and Adams-Woods was fouled. He made both his free throws to give Bonas a 65-62 lead with 18 seconds to go. The Rams would get a pair of looks from three but Bamisille and Nelson both came up empty. Banks was fouled with 0.2 seconds left in the game. He netted both free throws to push the final score to 67-62 in favor of the Bonnies.

Shulga led the game in scoring in the losing effort with 25 points. Banks led Bonaventure with 15. Adams-Woods and Bamisile totaled 13 points each while Jackson, Assa and Venning all contributed 11. Kuany was the other player in double figures with 10 points. VCU was 21/53 (39.6%) from the field, 11/29 (37.9%) from three and 9/11 (81.8%) from the free throw line. St. Bonaventure shot 21/59 (35.6%) from the floor, 5/22 (22.7%) from deep and 20/23 (87.0%) from the line. The Bonnies outrebounded the Rams 43-30 while VCU turned the ball over 13 times compared to Bonaventure’s nine.

After the game, Coach Schmidt praised his team’s resilience. “We showed some toughness tonight after VCU shot the heck out of the ball in the first half,” Schmidt said. He continued saying the run at the end of the first half was the key to turning the whole thing around. Schmidt then touched on the execution of his game plan by his team. “One of the keys today was to win the paint and we did that today,” he said.

The 17th year Bonaventure headman continued to credit how his veteran team handled tonight’s adversity. “We got a mature team and I think they knew what they had to do," Schmidt said, “Some teams I’ve coached where when you’re down 20 it’s over but with the crowd, we were able to come back.”

Both Banks and Venning also weighed in on the comeback victory. “The run at the end of the first half was huge,” Banks said, “I kept telling the guys in the huddle to stick with it and keep fighting and we came back.” Venning then added to the team’s mentality on the court in these types of situations. “We have guys like Daryl and Moses that keep us together and we just needed to keep going and play hard,” said Venning.

The Bonnies improve to 13-7 overall and 4-4 in conference play while the Rams fall to 13-8 overall and 5-3 in Atlantic 10 play. St. Bonaventure will travel to 21st ranked Dayton on Friday night.


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