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St. Bonaventure Welcomes Red-Hot Rhode Island to Reilly Center

Photo by Dan Nelligan

St. Bonaventure hosts the Rhode Islands Rams this evening. The Bonnies have dropped back-to-back games including a quadrant-four loss to Fordham over the weekend. Rhode Islands leads the all-time series with Bonas 43-31 and has suddenly proven to be a tough opponent starting perfect in Atlantic 10 play. The Rams have won seven of the last 10 head-to-head meetings including three of the last four overall. However, the Bonnies have taken three of the last four meetings inside the RC. Here is everything you need to know about tonight’s matchup.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure has slipped to 10-5 overall and 1-2 in conference play, flowing two consecutive losses. This is the first time in the 2023-24 season the Bonnies have lost consecutive games. Chad Venning has taken over the team-lead in scoring following another 20+ point performance. The redshirt junior now averages 14.2 points to go along with 4.8 rebounds and a team-high 24 blocks per game.

Three other Bonnies are averaging double figures this season. Mika Adams-Woods sits second on the team with a 13.9 scoring average while also leading St. Bonaventure in three-point percentage (48.1%) and assists (54, 3.6 APG). Charles Pride continues to be a welcome addition to this team as he averages 12.3 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game. The Bryant transfer also leads the Bonnies in steals with 17. Moses Flowers is the other player averaging double figures. The redshirt senior is scoring 10.4 points per game off the bench while also leading the team in made threes with 30 on 65 attempts.

Daryl Banks III and Assa Essamvous have both started all 15 games for head coach Mark Schmidt. Banks has not been as impactful offensively as last season as he only averages 7.7 points per game and has only hit 17 triples on 64 attempts. However, Banks has still been impactful for the team on the defensive end of the floor along with sharing the basketball. The fifth year sits second on the team with 34 assists. Assa has finally begun to score as his average has raised to 6.7 points per game. Like Banks, Assa has been important on both ends of the floor as his 5.6 rebounds per contest is second on the team.

Noel Brown continues to increase his scoring production in relief of Venning. The George Washington transfer is up to 6.3 points per game while continuing to play important minutes off the bench. Barry Evans did not see much action after missing a few shots early Saturday but has played a large role off the bench overall this season. The sophomore is hauling in 5.5 rebounds per game and sits second on the team in steals with 16.

The Bonnies have dropped to 78th in the Net Rankings and 88th in the KenPom Ratings. Bonas presents Rhode Island with a chance to pick up very high quadrant-two victory tonight.

Projected Starting Five: Assa, Adams-Woods, Banks III, Pride, Venning

The Opponent

The Rams have surprised everyone with a 3-0 start to conference play. What is not surprising is second-year Ram coach Archie Miller has his team playing hard for him. Rhode Island enters tonight at 9-7 overall with some notable wins over Yale, St. Joe’s, Davidson and UMass while taking losses to teams like Delaware, Providence, Charleston, Washington State and Northwestern.

Miller continues to sculp this Ram roster to his liking as he welcomed in a handful of transfers to replace impact players like Ishmael Leggett (16.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG), Brayon Freeman (14.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG), Jalen Carey (9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Malik Martin (8.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG). The newest additions to the Rhode Island roster have been the key to early A10 success as the top seven scorers are all new to the program.

David Green tops the list in scoring with a 15.3 points per game average to go along with a solid 5.0 rebounds per contest. However, the 6-foot-7 junior has been limited to only four games this season. Jaden House trails close behind Green averaging 14.8 points per game and tallying a team-high 50 made free throws on 70 attempts.

The Rams have two other scorers averaging double figures as Zek Montgomery and Luis Kortright score 11.1 and 11.0 points per game respectively. The 6-foot-6 Montgomery also brings down 4.4 rebounds per game while the 6-foot-3 Kortright leads the team with 50 assists. Cam Estevez and David Fuchs are in the next cut of scoring. Estevez averages 8.2 points while the 6-foot-9 Fuchs scores 7.8 points per game. Fuchs, an Austrian native, also grabs a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game.

Other players that will likely be seen tonight for the Rams are Jeremy Foumena, Brandon Weston, Tyson Brown and Always Wright. Weston and Wright are guards averaging less than five points each. Brown stands at 6-foot-9 averaging 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest while Foumena stands at 6-foot-11 averaging 5.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. It is worth noting that the Rams have struggled from the free throw line this season shooting just 62.5% from the charity stripe.

Rhode Island enters tonight’s game at 162nd in the Net Rankings and 167th in the KenPom Rankings. Teams ranked 161-353 being played on your home court are considered a quadrant four opponent. The Rams are a quadrant four opponent but could climb into quadrant three as the season progresses.

Projected Starting Five: Kortright, House, Estevez, Green, Fuchs

Players To Watch

Chad Venning – Venning is the obvious choice to click in this game. The Rams have not played a true center as skilled as Venning in A10 play yet. I do not see the combination of Fuchs, Foumena and Brown taking Venning out of this game. The offense should once again run though the redshirt junior who should be able to score on whoever the Rams throw at him. Tonight has the makings of yet another big night for #32.

Jalen House – It was between House and Green for my player to watch but I went with the guy who has shown a larger sample size this season. House was the guy before Green finally began his season. The junior guard came to Rhody via High Point and has transition nicely into Miller’s system. House will get to the rim and draw fouls as he ahs the most free throw makes and attempts for the Rams this season.

Previous Matchup

Rhode Island took the only meeting between these schools last season with a hard-fought 68-67 victory in Kingston. Kyrell Luc led the Bonnies with 20 points while Flowers (15), Banks (12) and Venning (10) were also in double figures. Bonaventure went 6/21 (28.6%) from three while shooting only 38.2% from the floor. The Rams were led by Leggett with 23 while Weston was the only other player in double figures with 11 points. Rhode Island did not shoot well either going 4/17 (23.5%) from deep and shooting only 37.7% from the field. The difference int eh game was free throw shooting as the Bonnies only attempt 13 free throws, making nine, while the Rams went 24/29 from the charity stripe.

Predictions and Keys to the Game

 Schmidt said it best in his postgame press conference Saturday: the Bonnies have to guard. Defense has been the staple of nearly every Bonaventure team under Schmidt for the last 17 years. This team had been no different up until the last two games. The Bonnies need to get back to guarding the opponent tight, keeping players in front of them on defense and suffocating the opponent like it did for the first 13 games.

Offensively, I expect another big day from Venning. Also be on the lookout for Flowers and Pride for the Bonnies while Green, House and Montgomery should have impacts for Rhody. It is very rare for St. Bonaventure to lose three straight conference games. I think the Bonnies are better both personnel and skill wise. However, the Rams are hot right now and Bonas is not. Home-court advantage will ultimately decide this one with the Bonnies grabbing a two possesion win.


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