ST. BONAVENTURE – Again playing without sophomore center Osun Osunniyi, St. Bonaventure battled one of Atlantic 10’s top teams in Rhode Island to the wire Saturday afternoon in front of a sold out Reilly Center. In the end, though, the Rams threw the final blow to take an 81-75 victory.
The contest saw just six lead changes and four ties, though it felt like the momentum swung many more times.
Bona took a 40-35 edge to intermission after leading for 14 minutes of the opening half.
Early on, the Bonnies were hot from distance, sinking five of their nine attempts from beyond the arc before intermission including a trio of treys from Alejandro Vasquez.
The Rams (14-5, 6-1 A-10) took the momentum out of the break, however, posting the first seven points of the second half to surge ahead.
Justin Winston pushed the Bonnies back in front with a three, 47-45, but Rhody free throws and Fatts Russell three put the visitors in the lead.
That would set the stage for how things would go down the stretch. Each time the Bonnies would seemingly be poised to tie or take the lead again, either Russell or Tyrese Martin would step up with a shot to quiet the raucous Reilly Center crowd.
With the Rams ahead by five with 7:21 to play, 63-58, Martin drilled a three on the next trip down the court.
The Bonnies (12-8, 4-3) came back again on a drive of the lane by Jaren English and another three from Winston, 69-66, but a jumper from Martin made it a two possession game again followed by a Russell trey.
Bona got within four, 75-71, following back-to-back buckets from Lofton with a minute to go, but a dunk from Jacob Toppin effectively put the game on ice.
Five Bonnies finished in double figures led by Lofton’s 15 points while Dominick Welch and Jaren English each had 14 points. Freshmen Justin Winston (12) and Alejandro Vasquez (11) recorded strong efforts as well.
Russell paced all scorers with 29 points while Martin added 14. Cyril Langevine posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
• Rhode Island shot 51 percent in the second half (15-29) and 47 percent for the game. The Bonnies finished at 46 percent for the game.
• The Rams led on the boards, 35-31.
• Lofton shot 7-for-12 from the floor while Vasquez went 4-for-7.
• Lofton played the entire 40 minutes. He has played 36 or more minutes in 41 of 54 career games.
• English entered the game averaging a team-best 15.0 points per game in Atlantic 10 play.
• Amadi Ikpeze had a career-high 11 rebounds including five on the offensive glass.
QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH MARK SCHMIDT
“I thought it was an inspired effort by our guys. I thought it was a good college basketball game. We made some inexperienced plays. I thought the game was decided in the first four minutes of the second half. We came out a little bit lethargic, and they came after us.”
“We knew they were going to come at us. We didn’t do a good job in those first four minutes (of the second half), and it was back and forth. I thought Martin and Russell hit some big shots, and we missed five foul shots in the second half. With an inexperienced team, you have to make those. You’re not going to make every foul shot, but with where we’re at right now, we have to make those foul shots. We made some mistakes. We have to make Rhode Island earn baskets, and sometimes we broke down. But I thought the effort was there for the most part, we just have to execute better. With a young team, I think the more they are put in these different situations, hopefully they can grow and learn from them.”
“I was excited about the effort, it was a great crowd, much appreciated. We showed some promise, we just have to continue to work and learn from some of the breakdowns we had.”
“Rhode Island is one of the elite teams in our league, and we’re right there with a chance to win. That’s a good sign.”
The Bonnies return to the road to face Fordham in the Bronx Wednesday night. Tip is set for 7 p.m.
Story submitted by St. Bonaventure University.
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