Wednesday night, St. Bonaventure dropped its season opener against the Bucknell Bison, 88-85, in overtime.
With the team now 0-1, a lot of people are already in panic mode. Keep in mind last year, when the Bonnies set the school record for wins in a season, they started 0-1 as well. That was way more concerning at the time considering last year’s team was much better than this younger, inexperienced squad, and the team they lost to, Niagara, was nowhere near as good as Bucknell.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you not to panic, here are four takeaways from last night’s game that should do the trick.
1) “The youts, your honor.”
This Bonaventure team is full of youth (or ‘youts’ as Joe Pesci would say) and most of the youngsters came to play last night.
The Putnam Science Academy duo of Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi both look to be well beyond their years in most areas of their respective games. Lofton struggled with turnovers last night, but that should improve as he gains experience. The poise he showed at the free-throw line, making 10 of 11 attempts, was incredible. Ossuniyi needs to stay on the court and limit his foul trouble but used his incredible length (7’8 wingspan) and bounce to record eight points, five rebounds and three blocks…in just 15 minutes of play! That’s a lot to look forward to.
2) Big men need to stay on the court
I already mentioned how impactful Ossuniyi was in his limited time. Similarly, junior center Amadi Ikpeze held his own while he was on the court, with six points (he made all three shot attempts) and three rebounds. However, Ikpeze only played 17 minutes. That’s 32 combined minutes from Bonaventure’s two centers, which is unacceptable. Ikpeze’s game has improved drastically from when he first stepped foot on this campus. His frame has filled out, his footwork is impressive, and he’s developed an excellent baby hook, making him an offensive weapon for the Bonnies. That said, he needs to limit his foul trouble and stay on the court to give this team a chance to be successful.
3) The team’s offensive approach is going to be different
Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley aren’t here anymore. That means this team needs to find new ways to score the ball, and if last night was any indication, the three-pointer won’t be a strength of the Bonnies this season (21% last night). However, when Lofton and junior guard Jalen Poyser missed some early threes, they attacked the rim and did so with much success. This team is built to slash more and attack the paint, so expect most of the Bonnies’ buckets this season to come in different ways than in past years.
4) Seniors are leading by example
There’s no doubt Nelson Kaputo wanted to start in his final opening game for the Brown and White. Who wouldn’t? But when the Bonnies head coach, Mark Schmidt, asked Kaputo to help his team off the bench he delivered. He immediately made an impact on both sides of the ball upon entering the game. That’s where senior leadership is so crucial.
LaDarien Griffin, knowing the team could potentially face some offensive struggles without Adams and Mobley this year, improved his offensive game to the point where he can now step out and be a weapon from 18-20 feet.
“It’s hard to be a four or five (power forward or center) and be a go to guy,” said Schmidt. “He’s the most experienced guy we got out there, so as a coach, I’m going to rely on him a little more.”
Griffin was certainly prepared when his name was called, racking up a double-double before leaving the game with a knee injury due to contact.
Finally, Courtney Stockard, who was one of three injured Bonnies forced to sit out last night. We all know what the sixth-year senior can bring to this team. He was arguably their best player throughout the team’s 13-game win streak last year and led the victory against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. When he comes back, expect him to make an immediate impact.
“We may struggle a little to start,” said Stockard. “I don’t think that’s going to hurt us though as long as we’re playing our best basketball in March.”