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Bonnies, Ramblers Meet in A10 Quarterfinals

Photo by Dan Nelligan

St. Bonaventure defeated La Salle yesterday evening 75-73 to advance to the Atlantic 10 Tournament Quarterfinals. The Bonnies will meet the Loyola Chicago Ramblers tonight. Loyola earned the number two seed in the conference tourney and a double bye to this game. Bonas will not have the luxury of being the better-rested team today. Here’s everything you need to know as the Bonnies look to make it to the weekend.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure enters the Atlantic 10 Tournament 19-12 overall, 9-9 in conference play and the seventh seed. The Bonnies finished the regular season losing two straight and three of the last five games before taking down La Salle 75-73 and avenging a loss from earlier this season. 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 Ramblers will face a quadrant two opponent this evening.

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

The Opponent

Loyola Chicago enters the Atlantic 10 Tournament 23-8 overall, 15-3 in conference and the second seed. The Ramblers have won three straight games and 10 of the last 11 contests. The only loss the team has suffered in that stretch was a 15-point defeat in Olean on February 27. Head Coach Drew Valentine uses a healthy 11-man rotation to tire opponents while keeping his guys fresh over 40 minutes.

Des Watson and Philip Alston have teamed up to be the dynamic duo the Ramblers needed. Watson averages a team best 13.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 guard adds 76 assists and 29 steals to his shooting numbers of 42.9% from the field, 40.1% from deep (57/142) and 66.3% (69/104) from the free throw line. Alston scores 12.4 points and grabs 4.4 rebounds per contest. The 6-foot-6 forward gets to the line the most on the team as he has gone 80/126 (63.5%) from the charity stripe this season.

Braden Norris, Dame Adelekun and Jayden Dawson are the main secondary contributors for the Ramblers. Norris, a 6-foot guard, averages 9.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game to go along with team highs in assists (153), three-point percentage (65/149; 43.6%) and free throw percentage (50/58; 86.2%). Adelekun, a 6-foot-8 forward, scores 8.9 points and hauls in 4.3 rebounds per contest. The graduate student adds 28 blocks and 29 assists to his stat line. Dawson, a 6-foot-4 guard, averages 7.9 points per game and lets it fly from deep shooting 45/122 (36.9%).

Sheldon Edwards, Miles Rubin and Jalen Quinn are in the next cut of players for Loyola. Edwards, a 6-foot-4 guard, scores 6.2 points per contest while having shot 87 triples, making 38 of them (43.7%). Rubin stands at 6-foot-10 while averaging 5.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The freshman leads the team in blocks by a wide margin with 72. Quinn, a 6-foot-3 guard, scores 4.3 points per contest while being an 80.4% free throw shooter. Three other players Greg Dolan (3.8 PPG), Tom Welch (2.6 PPG) and Patrick Mwamba (2.5 PPG) will also be likely to see minutes in this game.

Loyola enters today at 84th in the NET Rankings and 93rd in the KenPom Ratings. The Ramblers present the Bonnies with a quadrant two opportunity this evening.

Projected Starting Five: Watson, Dawson, Norris, Alston, Rubin

Players to Watch

Daryl Banks III – Banks had his way with the Ramblers a few weeks ago as he rode four threes and a perfect 12/12 day from the line to 26 points and a win. The fifth-year guard showed his tournament experience yesterday as he drew a massive offensive foul followed by a tough reverse layup in the final minute of the game. At the end of the year a guy like Banks’ tournament experience is invaluable come March. The same can be said about Charles Pride who had a solid offensive game yesterday, too. Watch for the guys with tournament experience to step up in the clutch today.

Philip Alston – A 6-foot-6 combo guard who can do it all is a problem for a lot of teams. Alston was the most effective player in the Rambler loss in Olean a few weeks ago with 12 points. However, six of those 12 points were from the free throw line. It will be hard to keep Alston under his season average again, especially since he had a poor shooting day in the first meeting. Also watch for Watson to have a bounce-back game following only a nine-point performance in the first head-to-head meeting.

Previous Meeting

The Bonnies dominated Loyola in the first and only meeting in the regular season 79-64. Banks led the game ins coring with 26 points while Venning totaled 18 and Flowers dropped 12. Alston led the Ramblers with 12 points while Norris was the only other player in double figures with 11 points. The Bonnies outrebounded Loyola 35-34 in the game while also winning the turnover battle 19-14. Bonaventure shot 45.1% from the field, 41.2% (7/17) from deep and 89.7% (26/29) from the line in the win. The Ramblers went 38.2% from the floor, 32.3% (10/31) from three and 57.1% (12/21) from the free throw line in the loss.

Prediction and Keys to the Game

At this point I have no idea which Bonaventure team is going to show up. Yesterday’s game was most concerning to me as this team seems to play up and down to its competition. However, that philosophy bodes well for the remainder of the tournament for the Bonnies. To win this evening’s game, the Bonnies have to combine suffocating defense with timely shooting, especially from deep. If Bonas can stay active on the defensive end and win the turnover battle, they can win this game. The Ramblers are going to be ready for this one and will know exactly what they need to do to enact revenge for February’s loss. When the dust settles, I think Loyola comes away with a hard-fought, two-possession victory. Either way it plays out, this game will come down to the wire. I will take the Ramblers as the higher seed in a get-back spot.


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