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St. Bonaventure and Niagara Face Off in Little Three Rivalry

Photo by Dan Nelligan

The Bonnies (5-2) travel back to the Buffalo area to face little-three rival Niagara (1-5). Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. These teams have not seen each other in nearly four years, which is the longest stretch without a head-to-head meeting in the history of both programs. The Bonnies and Purple Eagles have met 160 previous times with St. Bonaventure leading the series 89-71. Here is everything you need to know about tonight’s matchup.

The Bonnies

The Bonnies improved to 5-2 with an 80-65 win over Buffalo last Saturday. Following the win, St. Bonaventure jumped to 99th in the Kenpom Rankings and debuted at 127th in the first NET Rankings of the season.

Mika Adams-Woods leads the Bonnies in scoring so far this season. The graduate transfer averages a team-high 13.7 points and tallied a season-high 20 points in Saturday’s win. Chad Venning also tallied a season-high while tying a career-high in points with 23 last time out. The redshirt junior is averaging 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game through the first seven games this season.

Charles Pride has also been an invaluable piece for head coach Mark Schmidt. The transfer from Bryant averages 12.8 points per game while his 6.8 rebounds per game leads the Bonnies. Daryl Banks III began to retake his 2022-23 form over the past two games as his scoring average has reached 9.7 points per game. Pride and Banks have also been fantastic on the defensive end of the floor. Assa Essamvous, Moses Flowers and Noel Brown and Barry Evans have all become important pieces for Schmidt as the four players have all logged big minutes in the first seven games.

The Bonnies continued to shoot the ball well Saturday. The team shot 48.3% from the floor, 41.7% from beyond the arc and 74.7% from the free throw line. Bonas made a total of 10 three pointers compared to Buffalo’s two. Pride and Kyrell Luc continue to be listed as day-to-day, game-time decisions entering tonight. Both players are dealing with ankle injuries as Pride was in a walking boot with a scooter on the bench last game.

Projected Starting Five: Evans, Assa, Adams-Woods, Banks, Venning

The Opponent

Niagara enters tonight with a 1-5 record. The Purple Eagles’ only win came at St. Francis (PA) in late November by eight points. Niagara’s losses have come to Notre Dame, Bucknell, Hawaii, Saint Peter’s and Quinnipiac. Out of 362 division one teams, the Purple Eagles currently sit 312th in the Kenpom Rankings (one behind Bucknell) and 317th in the NET Rankings.

Fifth-year head coach Greg Paulus was very active in the transfer portal as he saw five notable players depart and seven new players transfer into the program. The biggest losses to the Purple Eagles were Noah Thompson, Aaron Gray and Sam Iorio. Thompson led Niagara averaging 19.5 points per game while also registering 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Gray averaged 12.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while Iorio averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season.

Freshman Ahmad Henderson II leads the 2023-24 version of the Purple Eagles in scoring. The 5-foot-9 guard is averaging 15.2 points per game over his first six collegiate outings. UMBC transfer Yaw Obeng-Mensah ranks second on the team in scoring averaging 11.5 points per game. The 6-foot-7 forward is second on the team in rebounding as he grabs 5.0 boards per contest. Senior guard Braxton Bayless is the final Niagara player to average double figures as he scores 10.0 points per game.

Luke Bumbalough, a 6-foot-1 graduate transfer from Ball State, and Harlan Obioha, a seven-foot-tall sophomore, are both averaging 7.8 points per game. Obioha also leads the team in rebounding as the center averages 7.5 rebounds per game. The only other player of note for Paulus’ squad is graduate transfer Kwane Marble Jr. The 6-foot-5 guard has made two starts and has appeared in all six games while averaging 6.8 points per contest.

Projected Starting Five: Bumbalough, Henderson II, Marbel Jr., Oben-Mensah, Obioha

Players to Watch

Mika Adams-Woods – The graduate transfer from Cincinnati has arguably been one of the best players on Mark Schmidt’s team this season. The guard is scoring a team-high 13.7 points per game while also leading the team in assists with a total of 32 (4.8 APG). Adams-Woods has become a primary ballhandler for the Bonnies along with keeping with the team mentality of a hard 30 seconds on the defensive end each time down the floor. Watch out for #3 tonight.

Ahmad Henderson II – Standing at 5-foot-9 and weighing in at about 155 pounds, the freshman has been Niagara’s best player so far this season. Henderson’s 15.2 points and 31.8 minutes per game along with his eight steals lead the Purple Eagles through six games. It will be interesting to see who Mark Schmidt gives the task of guarding Henderson to (my prediction would be Banks). Also watch out for the seven-footer Harlan Obioha.

Prediction and Keys to the Game

At the end of the day, Niagara, like Buffalo, is not a good basketball team. The Purple Eagles rank in the 300’s in both the NET and Kenpom Rankings. The Bonnies should have minimal issues on the defensive end. The only players that should be concerning for the Bonnies are Henderson as the leading scorer and Obioha based on his height alone. St. Bonaventure should be looking to put together a similar performance to its last two games against Miami (OH) and Buffalo.

The key to this afternoon’s game will be balanced, consistent scoring. This version of Schmidt’s team has that suffocating defensive philosophy which causes consistent offensive production to be the main key to the game. Tonight’s game should be straight forward. Score the rock on one end while playing the normal, hard-nosed defense on the other. The Bonnies will get the job done in relatively easy fashion grabbing a 15–20-point win.

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