Photo by Dan Nelligan
The Bonnies begin a two-game road trip with a stop in Virginia to face George Mason. Bonaventure snapped its short, two-game losing streak Wednesday with a 35-point thrashing of Rhode Island while George Mason has lost three straight conference games. The Bonnies have dominated the Patriots in their 16 previous meetings, winning 12 of the previous meetings. Here is everything you need to know about this afternoon’s matchup.
St. Bonaventure enters tonight’s game at 11-5 overall and 2-2 in conference. The Bonnies are currently tied for seventh in the Atlantic 10 coming into Saturday and would move into at least a tie for sixth with a win. Mark Schmidt’s team responded well off a pair of conference losses by emphasizing better defense which transitioned into offense. The Bonnies had five scorers in double figures Wednesday including Charles Pride’s team-leading 25 points.
Pride sits third on Bonaventure in scoring averaging 13.2 points per game while leading the team with 6.9 rebounds per game. Chad Venning has taken over the Bonnie lead in scoring average as he is scoring 14.3 points per contests. The redshirt junior also grabs 4.7 rebounds per game while leading the team in blocks (30) and made free throws (36). Mika Adams-Woods is sandwiched between Venning and Pride, averaging 13.8 points per game. The graduate transfer leads the Bonnies in assists with 59 (3.7 APG).
Moses Flowers earned his first start of the season earlier this week. The redshirt senior is the fourth and final player on the team averaging double figures with 10.1 points per game. Flowers is tied for the team lead in made threes (30) with Pride. Daryl Banks came off the bench for the first time in his Bonaventure career and responded with a 14-point performance to raise his season average to 8.1 points per game. Assa Essamvous continues to make an impact on both ends of the floor. His 5.8 rebounds per game ranks second on the team while his 18 steals is tied with Barry Evans for first.
Noel Brown has moved into sixth in scoring on St. Bonaventure. His 6.7 points per game has been a welcomed surprise off the bench in relief of Venning. Evans also continues to play a full 94-foot game, being tied for the team lead in steals and averaging 5.3 rebounds per game. Kyrell Luc missed the Rhode Island game with an ankle issue where he was unable to go after giving it a try in warmups.
St. Bonaventure currently sits 75th in the NET Rankings and 81st in the KenPom Ratings. The Bonnies present the Patriots with an opportunity to pick up a quadrant two victory.
Projected Starting Lineup: Assa, Adams-Woods, Flowers, Pride, Venning
George Mason enters tonight’s contest with an overall record of 13-5 and a conference record of 2-3. The Patriots opened Atlantic 10 play with consecutive wins over La Salle and St. Louis before dropping games to VCU, Richmond and George Washington. George Mason is tied for ninth in the conference entering Saturday. Other notable Patriot wins have come over Cornell, South Dakota State, Toledo and Tulane while their only other losses came to West Virginia, Charlotte and Tennessee.
The 2023-24 edition of this George Mason team looks much different from the 2022-23 version. Former head coach Kim English, along with a handful of players (including three who averaged double figures), fled the program to Providence this summer. The Patriots then welcomed back former player Tony Skinn as the team’s new head coach along with a slew of transfers.
Keyshawn Hall, a transfer from UNLV, leads the team in both scoring at 16.7 points per game and rebounding at 9.3 boards per game. The 6-foot-7 sophomore also leads the Patriots in made free throws with 59. Two other Patriots average double figures this season. Darius Maddox sits second on the team with a 13.1 scoring average. The 6-foot-5 senior transferred in from Virginia Tech and leads the team in made triples (36).
Amari Kelly is the other player averaging double figures with 12.2 points per game. The 6-foot-9 graduate transfer comes to George Mason from UNC Wilmington. Kelly sits second on the team in rebounding as he pulls down 6.3 boards per contest. Ronald Polite Jr. was one of the only important pieces who returned to the program following the major changes. The senior guard averages 8.9 points per game and leads the team by far in assists (58). Jared Billups has started all 18 games for Skinn this season as the junior guard scores 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Both Baraka Okojie and Woody Newton have been important bench pieces for this team. Okojie is a 6-foot-3 freshman who has begun his colligate career well with a 6.4-point scoring average. Newton stands at 6-foot-9 and entered the program this season after playing at Oklahoma State. The senior averages 6.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Also expect Malik Henry to make an appearance off the bench as the 6-foot-8 senior has appeared in 15 games averaging 4.0 points per game.
George Mason currently sits at 85th in the NET Rankings and 102nd in the KenPom Ratings. The Patriots present the Bonnies with an opportunity to pick up a quadrant two victory.
Projected Starting Lineup: Billups, Polite, Hall, Maddox, Kelly
Players to Watch
Daryl Banks III – Banks dropped 27 on George Mason last season and has begun to generate some momentum in his first game off the bench. Good shooters go through ups and down throughout the season and Banks has been in a prolonged cold streak. It feels like it is only a matter of time before he fully breaks out. The first step to that would be stringing together back-to-back solid offensive games.
Keyshawn Hall – It’s hard to ignore a player who is nearly averaging a double-double. The sophomore has been outstanding as he ranks second on the team in made threes with 25 and third on Mason with 27 assists. Hall also gets to the line with a team-leading 59 free throw makes and 72 attempts. Hall could prove to be the toughest defensive matchup of the season for both Assa and Evans.
The Bonnies defeated the Patriots 73-69 in the only meeting between these teams last season. Banks led the Bonnies in the game with 27 points and six triples while Flowers added 12 and Luc netted 10 in the home victory. Victor Bailey led the Patriots with 21 points in last season’s meeting. Josh Oduro and Polite were also in double figures. St. Bonaventure shot 52.9% from the field in the four-point win.
Predictions and Keys to the Game
This game is going to be extremely tough. Winning on the road anywhere in the Atlantic 10 has once again proven to be difficult, let alone against a solid team. The Patriots are very similar to the Bonnies in a lot of statistical categories. However, George Mason turns the ball over more than Bonas. On the other hand, the Patriots are the better rebounding team. This afternoon’s game could come down to whichever team takes care of the ball better and grabs more rebounds. I expect a tightly played, down-to-the-wire game. I have the Bonnies pulling out a one-possession win but could see either team takin home the victory.