Photo by Dan Nelligan
The Bonnies return home to the Reilly Center after dropping last weekend’s game at Dayton. Mark Schmidt’s team will welcome the UMass Minutemen who sit one game ahead of Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 standings. The Minutemen have found it tough to beat the Bonnies historically as Bonas has won 20 of 30 all-time meetings and had won 12 straight head-to-head games until last March. The numbers all appear to lead Bonaventure’s way heading into tonight’s tilt.
St. Bonaventure enters tonight with a 13-8 overall and 4-5 conference record. The Bonnies sit in the middle of a massive logjam that plagues the majority of the Atlantic 10 as the conference schedule reaches its halfway point. Mark Schmidt’s team has had it tough to begin A10 play and will have a shot to play many of the other teams directly around them in the coming weeks. First up is Massachusetts.
Chad Venning remains Bonaventure’s leading scorer through 21 games. The redshirt junior averages an even 14.0 points per game entering tonight to go along with 4.8 rebounds per contest. Venning also leads the team in blocks with 39, made free throws (50) and free throws attempted (71).
The graduate transfer duo of Mika Adams-Woods and Charles Pride also continue to help Schmidt’s offense. Adams-Woods averages 13.6 points per game along with a team-high 68 assists and 44.2% free throw percentage. Pride scores 11.3 points per game. The Bryant transfer also adds 21 steals and a team-leading 6.9 rebounds per game.
Assa Essamvous joins Venning as the only other player to have started all 21 games this season. The sophomore from Gabon averages 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Assa has also chipped in 24 steals thus far. Barry Evans continues to inject life into this team nearly every time he touches the court. The 6-foot-8 sophomore may only average 3.6 points per game but he contributes 5.5 rebounds per contest, 28 assists, 10 blocks and a team-leading 25 steals.
Both Moses Flowers and Daryl Banks III remain in nearly identical roles for Schmidt as conference play progresses. Flowers averages 9.8 points per game while also adding 21 assists and a team-high 37 threes. Banks averages 8.8 points per game to go along with 52 assists and a team best 91.8% free throw percentage. Kyrell Luc continues to start both halves but does not see consistent time as he averages 11.7 minutes and 3.0 points per game.
The Bonnies enter tonight’s game at 69th in the NET Rankings and 79th in the KenPom Ratings. Bonas provides UMass with a chance to pickup a quadrant one victory this evening.
Projected Starting Five: Luc, Assa, Flowers, Pride, Venning
The Minutemen enter this game with an overall record of 14-7 to go along with a conference record of 5-4. UMass also carries a 1-4 road record into this contest. Second year head coach Frank Martin’s team looks different than a year ago. Major contributors Noah Fernandes (13.4 PPG, 4.1 APG), RJ Luis (11.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG), TJ Weeks (8.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG) and Dyondre Dominguez (8.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG) all left the program this summer.
UMass brings four players averaging in double figures to the table. Josh Cohen leads the team in scoring averages at a 16.9 points per game clip. The 6-foot-10 senior forward also hauls in 6.9 rebounds per contest. Cohen doesn’t stop there as he adds 34 assists and nine blocks to his resume. The transfer from St. Francis (PA) leads the team in free throw makes (104) and free throw attempts (152) as well. Matt Cross has also put together a solid season thus far. The 6-foot-7 senior forward averages 15.5 points per game while leading the team in rebounding, grabbing 8.2 boards per game. Cross adds 57 assists and 32 steals to his stat sheet but has turned the ball over a team-high 48 times.
Rahsool Diggins and Keon Thompson are the other Minutemen scoring in double figures. Diggins averages 12.8 points per game. The 6-foot-2 junior guard has also dished out 47 assists, swiped 25 steals and leads the team in three-point shooting. Diggins has made a team-high 47 threes but has also attempted a team-high 128 threes for a conversion rate of only 36.7%. Thompson averages an even 10.0 points per game. The 6-foot guard leads the team in assists with 65 and has 23 steals.
Three other players make normally make an impact for Coach Martin. Jaylen Curry is a 6-foot guard and averages 7.7 points per game. Dani Hankins-Sanford stands at 6-foot-8 while averaging 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The sophomore also leads the team in blocks with 16 while chipping in 19 steals and 14 assists. Jayden Ndjigue is a 6-foot-4 guard who averages 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. Also expect to see both Robert Davis Jr. (3.8 PPG) and Marqui Worthy (2.3 PPG) in tonight’s game.
The Minutemen enter tonight 92nd in the NET Rankings and 94th in the KenPom Ratings. UMass gives St. Bonaventure an opportunity to grab a quadrant three victory on their home court.
Projected Starting Five: Diggins, Davis Jr., Thompson, Cohen, Cross
Players to Watch
Moses Flowers – I realistically could have gone with any of the four fifth-year guards here. It feels like Flowers is the one who is most due for a big game like we saw earlier this season. While he has still be a solid and needed player for this team since joining the starting five, the redshirt senior has not been the team’s highest scoring guard. That changes tonight as Flowers heats up from beyond the arc.
Rahsool Diggins – While Cohen and Cross are the two leading scorers on this UMass team, Diggins is the only player that remains a constant threat from deep. Venning, Assa and Evans should be able to guard the pair of forwards effective enough to win the game. Limiting Diggins’ good looks from deep and keeping his production from beyond the arc down will win the Bonnies this game. The junior guard loves to shoot as well with 128 attempted tripes but only a 36.7% conversion rate.
Last Season’s Matchups
These teams split a pair of meetings last season. The Bonnies took the Atlantic 10 season opener on New Years Eve 2022 by a score of 83-64. Banks dropped 31 points while Assa contributed 22 in the victory. The pair combined to go 10/23 from beyond the arc. It was a more balanced scoring attack for the Minutemen with four players in double figures led by Fernandes. Bonas made 13 total three compared to UMass who only made five.
The Minutemen broke a 12-game head-to-head losing streak late last season with a 71-60 home win in early March. Luis and Diggins tied for the lead in points for UMass with 14 apiece while Wildens Leveque chipped in 11. Venning led the Bonnies with 18 points while Flowers had 16 and Luc totaled 11. Bonaventure was outrebounded in the loss 41-31 while only shooting 36.4% from the field.
Predictions and Keys to the Game
The Bonnies will win this game by controlling the paint, winning on the boards and making the timely three. If Venning and the other forwards for Bonaventure can limit UMass’ inside game, Bonas could win this game in style. The Minutemen are going to try to bang bodies on the inside nearly every possession while the threat of Diggins lurks just beyond the arc. Schmidt’s team needs to plug up the paint and always keep an eye on the one shooter Frank Martin has. At the end of the day, the Bonnies should not have many issues with this team and will pull out what I am predicting as a double-digit victory on their home floor.