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St. Bonaventure Welcomes St. Joe’s to Start Homestand

Photo by Dan Nelligan

The Bonnies will play four of the next five and five of the next seven games at home over the next few weeks. This stretch of games inside the Reilly Center could prove to be the make or break for this team’s season. Bonaventure has lost two straight and four of the last five games while St. Joe’s comes in winners of three straight. The Hawks had their own struggles to open conference play but have appeared to turn things around. Here’s everything you need to know about a pivotal conference matchup for both these teams.

The Bonnies

St. Bonaventure has dropped two straight games and three of four on the road in Atlantic 10 play. Fortunately for the Bonnies, this game will be played at home. Mark Schmidt’s team enters tonight with an overall record of 11-7 and conference record of 2-4. Entering tonight, the Bonnies are tied for 11th in the conference, but a win could catapult them as far up the standings as fifth.

Chad Venning continues to lead the Bonnies in scoring as he averages 13.9 points per game. The redshirt junior also leads the team in free throws attempts (63) and makes (45) along with blocks (33). Venning also averages 4.6 rebounds per game, which has been trending up over the last handful of games.

Two other players on the team average double figures. Mika Adams-Woods did not play in the loss at Duquesne as Coach Schmidt said he was sick even though he was dressed and sat on the bench with the team. Adams-Woods averages 13.8 points per game while also totaling the most assists on the team with          61. Charles Pride is the other Bonnie averaging double digits with a 12.6 scoring average. The Bryant transfer also leads the team in rebounding with 6.8 rebounds per game and three-point percentage (47.0%) while also ranking second in steals with 21.

Assa Essamvous remains the only other player besides Venning to start all 18 games this season. The sophomore has begun to ramp up the offense as he now averages 6.9 points per game. Assa has proven invaluable to this team because of his work on defense and on the boards. His 5.7 rebounds per game is second on the Bonnies while his 20 steals rank third. Moses Flowers has also been a valuable contributor with a 9.8 scoring average. The redshirt senior also remains in the team lead with 32 made threes.

Daryl Banks III also continues to play important minutes, now off the bench. Banks scores 7.4 points per game while leading the team in free-throw percentage (89.2%). Barry Evans has been a sparkplug as a substitute for Schmidt. The sophomore might only have a 3.3 scoring average but also grabs 5.4 rebounds per contest and leads the team ins teals with 22.

Kyrell Luc and Noel Brown have also seen consistent minutes this season in backup roles. Luc averages 3.0 points per game while Brown grabs 6.1 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. The Bonnies enter tonight at 80th in the NET Rankings and 86th in the KenPom Ratings. St. Bonaventure presents St. Joe’s with an opportunity to pick up a quadrant two victory tonight.

Projected Starting Five: Assa, Adams-Woods, Flowers, Pride, Venning

The Opponent

St. Joe’s enters tonight with a 13-6 overall record and 3-3 conference record. The Hawks opened A10 play with three straight losses to Rhode Island, Saint Louis and Loyola Chicago. However, Joe’s has won the last three games defeating La Salle, Duquesne and UMass. Some other notable results for the Hawks were wins against a ranked Villanova team, Temple, Princeton and Iona along with losses to Charleston, Texas A&M Commerce and an overtime road loss to Kentucky.

Head Coach Billy Lange return nearly every important player from his 2022-23 roster following a 14-18 (8-10) season and an eighth-place conference finish. Despite the middle of the pack finish, returning solid players that already have chemistry can work wonders. That has been exactly what Lange has seen. The Hawks have five players averaging double figures through the first 19 games this season. Junior guard Erik Reynolds II leads the team in scoring with an 18.2 points per game average. Reynolds also leads the team in minutes (33.4 MPG), threes taken (154), threes made (64), free throws made (68) and free throw percentage (89.5%).

The solid guard play continues with Lynn Greer III and Xzayvier Brown. Greer is also a junior and averages 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-2 guard also sits first on the team in assists with 79 in 19 games (4.2 APG). Brown is a freshman and has come off the bench in 18 of 19 games this season. He also stands at 6-foot-2 and averages 11.6 points per game to go along with 3.6 rebounds per contest. Brown adds 56 assists and a team-high 31 steals to his resume.

The other two players averaging double digits this season are Rasheer Fleming and Cameron Brown. Flemming acts as the Hawk center standing at 6-foot-9, 230 pounds. The sophomore averages 10.8 points and a team-leading 7.4 rebounds per game. Flemming adds 29 blocks in 19 games along with 19 triples in 60 attempts. Brown stands at 6-foot-6 while averaging 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. The graduate student has also chipped in 21 steals and 47 threes.

Christ Essandoko is also likely to see action. The 7-footer averages 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. The redshirt freshman also adds 23 assists and 14 total blocks to his 21.6 minutes per game. No other Hawk averages more than five points per game but three other players have seen time in almost every game thus far. Junior forward Kacper Klaczek, freshman guard Shawn Simmons II and freshman forward Anthony Finkley have all seen the floor in at least 17 games this season.

St. Joesph’s currently sits 76th in the NET Rankings and 87th in the KenPom Ratings. The Hawks will give the Bonnies a quadrant three opportunity at home, but that will jump to a quadrant two win if Joe’s surpasses the 75th ranking in the NET.

Projected Starting Five: Reynolds II, C. Brown, Greer III, Fleming, Essandoko

Players to Watch

Charles Pride – At this point it’s hard to pick a player to make an offensive impact. While the Bonnies have been much better offensively at home this season, the issues the team has seen remains extremely concerning. Guard play is going to be pivotal tonight which means Pride and Adams-Woods are the most likely candidates to lead the team. With the uncertainty in Adams-Woods’ status, and Pride 25 points against Rhode Island, leads me to believe he will be the guard who heats up tonight.

Erik Reynolds II – The Hawks have six high-quality players, but Reynolds has been the best. You simply do not average more than 18 points per game by accident. The junior scores in all facets of the game. He has made 64 of his 154 attempted threes, gets to the line and scores going 68/76 from the free throw line and has 53 assists on top of his absurd scoring numbers. Reynolds and the guards are going to be a handful for this very good defensive Bonnie team.

Last Season’s Matchup

The Bonnies are 19-11 all-time against the Hawks. That includes 10-3 inside the Reilly Center. St. Bonaventure has won nine straight games against St. Joe’s and have not won in Olean since March 2014. Bonas won the only matchup between these two teams last season by a score of 89-76. Banks led all scorers with 36 points while Reynolds followed close behind with 33 points. Three other Bonnies were in double figures (Assa, Venning and Flowers) while Greer was the only other Hawk with more than 10 points (21). St. Joe’s made 10 threes compared to Bonaventure’s nine while both teams made 22 free throws.

Predictions and Keys to the Game

The Bonnies are going to have their hands full with this St. Joe’s team. When both teams are clicking, this matchup appears very even on paper. Outside of the 7-foot Essandoko, the Bonnies have the height advantage. However, the Hawks love to shoot. Joe’s has attempted 548 threes compared to Bonaventure’s 387.

If the Hawks get the three-ball working early, it is going to be a long day for the Bonnies. Bonas needs to play 40 minutes of tight defense while picking up the scoring significantly on the offensive end. Running the offense through Venning should still work here, but the guards need to move to create open shots. In the end, I think the Hawks will just be too much for the Bonnies in a high-scoring shootout.


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