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St. Bonaventure Travels to Nationally Ranked Dayton for Friday Night Matchup

Photo by Dan Nelligan

Next up for the Bonnies are the nationally ranked Dayton Flyers. Dayton is led by potential NBA draft pick DaRon Holmes to go along with a perfect 10-0 home record. The Flyers have been a thorn in Mark Schmidt’s heel over the years. The Bonnies are 11-28 against Dayton all time while Schmidt has a 3-17 record against the Flyers since he took over in Olean in 2007. St. Bonaventure has only won at Dayton twice in 16 tries. A tall test looms ahead of the streaky Bonnies this evening.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure faces quite possibly its toughest test of the year visiting the 21st ranked Dayton Flyers. Mark Schmidt’s team currently has a 13-7 overall record and 4-4 conference mark. The Bonnies have won two straight games but continue to struggle away from the Reilly Center. Schmidt’s team is averaging just over 63 points per game in four A10 road contests while dropping to just under 55 points per game in three conference losses.

Chad Venning continues to lead the team in a handful of statistical categories including scoring. The red shirt junior averages 14.2 points per game while also topping the Bonnies in blocks (38), made free throws (49) and free throw attempts (70). Venning’s rebounding average has also risen to 5.0 boards per contest.

Mika Adams-Woods and Charles Pride are the other Bonnies averaging double figures. Adams-Woods scores 13.4 points per game while adding 31 triples (44.9% 3PT) and a team-high 65 assists. Pride scores 11.4 points per game along with racking up the team lead with 6.7 rebounds per game. The Bryant transfer also adds 21 steals, 31 threes and 34 assists to his stat sheet.

Moses Flowers, Daryl Banks III and Assa Essamvous all play major minutes for Schmidt as well. Flowers averages 9.9 points per game and leads the team in made threes with 35. Banks has raised his offensive production as he now scores 8.9 points per game. He also leads the Bonnies in free throw percentage at 91.8%. Both fifth-year guards also bring smothering defense to the table. Assa has started all 20 games for Bonaventure this season. The sophomore averages 6.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Assa has tallied 23 steals along with being a three-point threat and playing solid defense.

Noel Brown continues to effectively backup Venning down low. The George Washington transfer averages 5.7 points per game. Barry Evans also continues to be a high-energy, impact bench piece. The sophomore leads the team in steals with 24 while also chipping in 27 assists, 10 blocks, 3.4 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kyrell Luc continues to start for Coach Schmidt and provides stability on the floor when needed.

The Bonnies currently sit 69th in the NET Rankings and 82nd in the KenPom Ratings. St. Bonaventure gives Dayton an opportunity to pick up a quadrant three win which could move to quadrant two by the end of the season.

Projected Starting Lineup: Luc, Assa, Flowers, Pride, Venning

The Opponent

The Flyers enter tonight’s game with an overall record of 17-3 and an Atlantic 10 record of 7-1. Dayton head coach Anthony Grant has his team firing on all cylinders, even with a loss to Richmond last weekend. Some notable out of conference results for the Flyers are losses to Houston and Northwestern along with wins over St. John’s, Cincinnati, LSU and SMU. Dayton has a clear game plan and consistency in its lineup as Grant has started the same five in 19 of 20 games this season.

DaRon Holmes leads the Flyers in most statistical categories. The 6-foot-10, 235-pound junior averages 19.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Holmes also adds 44 blocks, 52 assists and 15 steals while also being a threat to score from anywhere on the court. The forward shoots 70.5% (110/156) from the free throw line and 39.6% (21/53) from deep.

Dayton has four other players averaging at least nine points per game. Nate Santos and Koby Brea are the only others in double figures. Santos, a 6-foot-7 forward, averages 11.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The junior transfer also adds 31 threes in 70 tries and a 75% success rate from the stripe. Brea has become the ultimate sixth man as he averages 11.0 points per contest off the bench. The 6-foot-6 junior guard has the best three-point percentage among the rotational players at 48.7% (58/119).

Kobe Elvis and Javon Bennett are the other players averaging at least nine points per game. Elvis scores 9.5 points per contest while also adding 69 assists. The 6-foot-2 junior is arguably the best free throw shooter on the team as his 89.4% (42/47) make rate from the charity stripe. That leads the Flyers. Bennett averages 9.0 points per game and leads the team in assists with 73. The 5-foot-10 sophomore has started all 20 games for Grant this season while adding an 82.9 (34/41) free throw percentage and a team-high 28 steals.

Isaac Jack will also be heard from in tonight’s game. He has appeared off the bench in all 20 games this season while averaging 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound sophomore adds 25 steals, 15 blocks and 37 assists to his stat line as well. Zimi Nwokeji (2.4 points per game) and Petras Padegimas (1.8 points per game) could also see some minutes off the bench for Head Coach Anthony Grant.

Dayton comes into tonight’s game at 18th in the NET Rankings and 26th in the KenPom Ratings. The Flyers present the Bonnies with an opportunity to pickup a massive quadrant one win on the road.

Projected Starting Lineup: Bennett, Santos, Brea, Holmes, Elvis

Players to Watch

Chad Venning – Venning leads the Bonnies in a number of statistical categories but that is not the reason he is tonight’s player to watch. Schmidt loves to run his half-court offense through Venning who will be matched up with Holmes all night. In last season’s win, Venning out-performed Holmes and was the reason the Bonnies took home a victory. If Bonas is going to win this game, the 6-foot-10 center must be at the top of his game on both ends of the floor.

DaRon Holmes – Like Shulga last game, Holmes is the obvious pick for Dayton’s player to watch. The junior could very well find himself in the NBA next season and leads the Flyers in most statistical categories. To beat Dayton, you must shut down Holmes. This has been seen multiple times including last season’s matchup and two games ago against Richmond where he was limited to only nine points with most of those coming at the end of the game.

Last Season’s Matchup

The Bonnies took down the Flyers 68-59 last season inside the RC during the 2023 Whiteout Game. Venning had 17 points in the win while four other Bonnies were also in double figures. Luc and Flowers totaled 13 points each while Banks and Assa had 12 and 11 points respectively. Venning added eight rebounds in the win. Holmes had 21 points but was unable to get much done on the boards or the defensive end. Toumani Camara was the only other player in double figures with 12 points and a whopping 17 rebounds. Dayton only made four threes in the game while the Bonnies knocked down nine. St. Bonaventure was outrebounded 35-31 despite grabbing the win. Dayton’s 10 turnovers and 39.3% make-rate from the field did the Flyers in at the end of the day.

Predictions and Keys to the Game

The Bonnies are going to have their hands full tonight. Holmes’ game is both more developed and polished than last season along with a better supporting cast than last season. A matchup to watch will be how Assa and Evans guard Santos along with how Schmidt combats the possibility of Holmes and Jack being on the floor at the same time. With Bonaventure’s offensive struggles away from the Reilly Center, they need to play 40 minutes of constricting defense to win this game. The Bonnies could be in for a very long night if their offense cannot find a rhythm early. I’ve got Dayton securing a double-digit win in this game.

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