Photo by Dan Nelligan
St. Bonaventure opened the regular season with a thrilling win over Longwood earlier this week. Now, the Bonnies welcome Little Three rival Canisius College to the Reilly Center for the first weekend game of the year. Head coach Mark Schmidt and the Bonnies have not dominated Canisus overall in his tenure, but are 7-1 against the Golden Griffins at home since Schmidt took the reins. This is what you need to know about this afternoon’s matchup.
St. Bonaventure turned to nine different players in Monday’s win. Each of the nine players played a minimum of 14 minutes, while Charles Pride led the Bonnies in minutes (37), points (21) and rebounds (7). It was a slow start to the first official game of the season, as Chad Venning was quickly into foul trouble and the offense went ice cold. Once the scoring finally began to pick up, Pride and Assa Essamvous carried the load with secondary contributions from both Venning and Mika Adams-Woods.
In the end, Schmidt turned to his proven talent as Kyrell Luc laid in the go-ahead bucket, immediately notched a massive steal on the other end, and made a pair of free throws to solidify the four-point win. The Bonnies found success behind the arc, hitting 11 threes , a crucial factor given the limited number of points in the paint.
Fans should watch for Pride to increase his overall production, even after leading the team in multiple statistical categories just five days ago. Something else to keep an eye on will be Venning’s role this afternoon. If Chad can stay out of foul trouble, the big man could be looking at a possible double-double. Both Venning and Noel Brown will be needed this afternoon, as Canisius brings serious height into this game.
The Golden Griffins were an unimpressive 10-20 last season, but had a strong 5-2 finish to the 2022-23 campaign. However, Canisius lost three of its four leading scorers from a season ago. Jordan Henderson (14.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.2 APG), Jamir Moultrie (9.5 PPG) and Jacco Fritz (8.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.7 APG) all left the program this summer, leaving head coach Reggie Witherspoon with an even younger roster than before.
The team only returns one player who averaged double figures last season in Tahj Staveskie and his 12.4 points per game. While it looks bad for the Golden Griffins on paper, there are almost always players who will step up. That was what happened in Canisius’ opening night 89-77 loss at Syracuse. Junior guard Tre Dinkins led the team in points with 17 off the bench, while both Staveskie and Frank Mitchell potted 12 points. TJ Gadsden was the only other player in double figures with 10 points.
The Golden Griffins also bring size to the floor. Seven of the 10 players that saw the floor against Syracuse were at least 6-foot-7. This could become an issue for the Bonnies who are more guard centric. Venning and Brown are the only current rotation players taller than 6-foot-7, with Assa standing at 6-foot-6. The Bonnies were also out-rebounded 45-29 against Longwood, which could yet again become an issue. Do not underestimate this Canisius team, as many experts have the Golden Griffins as one of their surprise teams in the MAAC Conference this season.
Last Season’s Matchup
Canisius took down the Bonnies in Buffalo last season with an 84-80 overtime win. Daryl Banks III led all scorers with 22 points, while Venning came off the bench to play 20 minutes and score 11 points. Both Anouar Mellouk and Anquan Hill played major minutes in the game, while Canisius's Henderson and Xzavier Long tied for a team-leading 19 points. Staveskie was also in double figures with 11 points in 34 minutes.
Players to Watch
Daryl Banks III
Banks played one of the lowest minute totals of his Bonaventure career Monday, notching only 26 minutes. The guard also only had four points on 1/8 from the field and 0/5 from three-point land. The graduate student also struggled to shoot the rock in the team’s exhibition game against Alfred. Banks is too good of a shooter to stay in a funk for long. Look for #5 to get going this afternoon, especially from beyond the arc.
Mitchell dropped 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds on 6/9 shooing in just 22 minutes against Syracuse. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior had to sit out last season after transferring in from Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. Mitchell averaged an impressive 14.5 points and 18 rebounds per game at Humber two seasons ago. The junior’s size and skill could give the Bonnies fits inside, especially on the glass.
At the end of the day, the Bonnies are the better team. However, that certainly has not stopped Canisius from pulling off an upset before. The Canisius game always seems to be a dogfight, and this year appears to be no exception. The first 25-to-30 minutes of this game are going to be tight, scrappy and defensive. St. Bonaventure needs to figure out how to matchup with Canisius’ height early and be able to adapt throughout the game. I see the Bonnies pulling away late, beating the Golden Griffins by 7-12 points in a physically brutal game.