The Bonnies took down the Oklahoma State Cowboys last night in the first of a pair of games in Brooklyn. Now, St. Bonaventure will face its toughest task yet with an SEC Opponent: the Auburn Tigers. Bonaventure will need big performances from all its stars tonight if it wants to take down a very good Auburn team.
Mika Adams-Woods led the Bonnies with 17 points while Daryl Banks III broke out with 14 of his own in last night’s victory. Two other players (Assa Essamvous and Chad Venning) were also in double figures in the win. The Bonnies were able to defeat the power five opponent without Venning over the final nine minutes as he had fouled out, while also having their best player, Charles Pride, limited down the stretch with four fouls of his own.
Head coach Mark Schmidt had to work around a short bench tonight as both Kyrell Luc and Moses Flowers missed the game due to lower body injuries. This will be something to monitor moving into the second end of the back-to-back situation. Barry Evans and Noel Brown will once again both need to step up and play important minutes. Evans did just that in last night’s game notching two points, seven rebounds, two assists and played near elite defense.
Bonaventure needs Venning to stay out of foul trouble if the team has any chance at taking down a very good Auburn team. The Tigers are tall and strong, much like the Canisius team the Bonnies lost to last weekend. However, Auburn will be much more athletic than any team Bonas has seen in the early going. Defense and rebounding will be the top priorities for Schmidt’s club tonight.
Auburn thrashed Notre Dame in a dominant, wire-to-wire victory last night, showing why the Tigers were the favorites entering the tournament. Auburn also carries a 2-1 record into the Legends Classic championship game. However, the Tigers lone loss came to the 20th ranked Baylor Bears 88-82 in a neutral site game. Auburn’s two wins have come against Notre Dame and Southeastern Louisiana State.
Auburn is led by star center Johni Broome. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound junior is averaging 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds over 23.0 minutes per game so far this season. The Tigers also turn to 6-foot-1 Aden Holloway who averages 15.0 points per game over a team-high 24-minutes per game.
Head coach Bruce Pearl uses a rotation with 10 different players averaging at least 15.3 minutes per game. The team has seen major production from its bench with K.D Johnson (9.0 PPG) and Chad Baker-Mazara (8.3 PPG) as the third and fourth highest scorers while neither starting a game. The Tigers have received its secondary rebounding from Chaney Johnson (6.0 RPG) and Jaylin Williams (5.3 RPG). Other players that will see significant time for Coach Pearl are Denver Jones, Tre Donaldson, Chris Moore and Dylan Cardwell.
Auburn straight up scores the basketball. The Tigers are averaging 83.7 points per game over the first three contests of the season. The team shoots 46.1% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc while knocking down 75.4% of their free throws. Auburn is also averaging 39.7 rebounds per game which is a +4.4 margin. Rebounding has been a pain point for the Bonnies this season.
Players to Watch
Assa Essamvous – Assa will be the key, along with Barry Evans, to keeping the Tiger big men in check. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward will be tasked with guarding the likes of 6-foot-8 Jaylin Williams, 6-foot-7 Chad Baker-Mazara and 6-foot-7 Chaney Johnson. Assa will also remain important on the offensive end as he is averaging 10.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The Bonnies will need another quality game from the sophomore to take down the SEC opposition.
Johni Broome – Broome stands at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds and has opened the season as the Tigers’ best player. The junior is averaging a team-high 16.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the early going. Broome will feast if Venning finds himself in foul trouble yet again. The center will likely be the difference maker but also watch for guard Aden Holloway to have a big night.
Prediction and Keys to the Game
The Bonnies have begun to grow into the bad habit of coming out of the locker room slow. If St. Bonaventure wants to win this game, it absolutely cannot come out flat in either half. Additionally, the Bonnies must rebound the basketball against the overall taller Auburn team. I see Bonaventure keeping the game close throughout, but Auburn pulling away towards the middle part of the second half. The Tigers will win this game by seven to 12 points.