The Bonnies made the trip out to the immaculate Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls to play the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in a "neutral" site game. Unfortunately for Bona, the neutrality did not bring a friendly whistle along with it.
Bona did not come out to a hot start offensively, scoring just 5 points in the first 8 minutes of the game, however they were able to get it going in the latter part of the first half to head into the break with a 32-30 lead over SDSU.
Once the second half started, the offense continued to click for the Bonnies, as the Jackrabbits found themselves stuck within a rut of their own. Bona scored 7 unanswered points coming out of the break, while SDSU couldn't find a bucket until close to 5 minutes into the new period. As SBU was ready to break the game open and build upon their lead, the contest went another way.
The leading story of the whistle
Shortly prior to the Jackrabbits finding their first points of the second half, Daryl Banks III was whistled for his second foul on the night. Not a sign of huge concern for Banks at this point of the game, but with the foul trouble that Bona was already in, this was a sign of what was to come down the stretch.
Quickly after SDSU's first bucket of the second period, Chad Venning picked up his third personal foul while Yann Farrell picked up his second within an alarming six seconds of each other.
Coach Mark Schmidt had to take a risk and let Venning play with three fouls after starting forward Anouar Mellouk picked up three first half fouls and another quickly as he returned to the floor for the second. This worked out for a bit, until Venning picked up his fourth foul around the 11 minute mark, causing both of Schmidt's big men to join him on the bench with four fouls and a large chunk of the game remaining.
Schmidt turned to Pitt transfer Max Amadasun, who saw a handful of minutes during the season opener against St. Francis (PA), but did not play in the following contest at Canisius. Amadasun was able to string together some solid minutes in relief, converting on a couple of baskets as well as grabbing a couple of boards. However, Amadasun understandably couldn't close out the game himself with this much time on the clock.
Venning checked back in with six and half minutes to go in regulation. Farrell, who ended the night with a double-double and four made threes, picked up his fourth foul with a whole quarter of the second half remaining. Venning then picked up another foul, bringing him to the bench for the rest of the night.
Venning out, another four foul Bonnie, Mellouk, in.
To no one's surprise, Mellouk picked up his fifth foul a measly 30 seconds later. Venning and Mellouk were both gone for the night due to illegal screen calls on back-to-back possessions.
At this point of the game, the Bonnies were still in it, only down two to the Jackrabbits. It was obvious that the foul trouble was going to be tough to overcome playing shorthanded for the rest of the night. However, the biggest challenge for the Bonnies was the disparity in the whistle throughout the night, especially during crunch time.
Down four with 90 seconds to play, Kyrell Luc got a clean steal and was on his way to a fast break bucket to bring the Bonnies within two. SDSU's Matt Dentlinger was trailing behind, clearly putting his body into Luc and making contact with the left arm as he contested the lay-in. Luc hit the hardwood by no means of his own doing, no foul call.
Dentlinger played 34 minutes in the game - the most of any Jackrabbit - and ended the game with one personal foul. There wasn't a SDSU player that was in true foul trouble, the most being Luke Appel with three fouls, as well as three other players who had two personals. Along with Dentlinger, that was it on foul calls for the Jackrabbits in Sioux Falls, 60 miles from their home campus.
A discouraging 26 called fouls for St. Bonaventure, compared to only 10 for South Dakota State.
Encouraging offensive performances
Bona's shooting ended the night on a consistent 38% from both the field and from three. Bona was 8-for-21 from deep, compared to SDSU's lackluster 3-of-16 from long range.
In addition to Farrell's four three balls, Banks made three of his own. The freshman forward Barry Evans also made a 3-pointer in the two tries he took.
Farrell's performance is perhaps the most encouraging for Bona's new team. The freshman ended the night with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and a block on an effective 60% from the field and 50% from three.
Although he wasn't active from downtown, Luc had a great game scoring, ending with a team high 17 points on 50% shooting. Luc also tallied 5 assists, 4 rebounds, a block and an astronomical 6 (!) steals. If he can be this pesky as opponents work to set their offense, this should translate to more easy points for Luc and the Bonnies, as he should have had even more points off forced Jackrabbit turnovers if the whistle was on his side.
Daryl Banks III continued to be Daryl Banks III. Tallying 14 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and 2 steals of his own. Banks also made a clutch 3-pointer with a minute left in regulation to bring the Bonnies within one. I think we can plan to see much more clutch scoring from Banks throughout his time in the Brown and White.
Although this was an overall strong performance from the Bonnies on the floor, the delta with the whistle would have been tough for any team to overcome. They put up a strong fight in a tough environment against a good South Dakota State basketball team, which is an encouraging sign as Bona's roster works to fully gel.
Bona will now return home to the Reilly Center for a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee against Bowling Green. Playing in their own gym with familiar colors filling the stands, and hopefully a much more even whistle, should be a warm feeling for the Bonnies.