St. Bonaventure (from Olean, NY) is coming off of an emotional win over local rival University at Buffalo (aka SUNY Buffalo). And On Tuesday, they trip south from the bleak confines of northern New York State to face the Red Storm in a rematch of last year’s tilt in Rochester.
You may remember that last year’s game included a lackluster second half from the Red Storm, a pair of foul shots from Malik Boothe to seal the game, and a whole lot of palpitating hearts listening to the radio back in the five boroughs and adjacent areas. This year, St. John’s has a new coach, the game is on television (SNY), and everyone hopes that the outcome won’t be as in doubt as last year’s contest was.
In the pregame press conference, Coach Steve Lavin mentioned that he gave the Johnnies some time off to keep them fresher. Here’s hoping that the team can keep Bonaventure’s star out of the paint; last year, Andrew Nicholson rolled his way through the paint with finesse and scored 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting. This is a chance for St. John’s to show how they can stop an agile and talented forward. The Red Storm are also on a winning streak; they hope to continue their winning ways against the Bonnies and extend their winning streak to 6, while working out the kinks that have kept games a little close for comfort at times.
For extra motivation, the ladies beat the Bonnies’ women’s team. The men have to keep up!
St. Bonaventure Bonnies (4-2)
So far this young season, the Bonnies’ best opponent has been Cleveland State… who beat the squad from Olean, 69-51. The team has a win over Cornell, a loss to Canisius, and the aforementioned win over Buffalo. Bonaventure plays a seven-man rotation, and haven’t been particularly impressive at any one aspect of basketball. They play an average pace and try to get the ball to Nicholson. They rebound solidly on the defense end, with Nicholson leading the way, but assisted by rebounding efforts from nearly everyone. Their interior defense has also been solid.
But the team that rebounds and defends as a unit also gives the ball away as a unit. Nicholson has the lowest percentage of turnovers per possessions, and even his isn’t great. The team’s offensive rebounding isn’t very good, but with their height, they may be able to put up a good effort on their misses against St. John’s.
The Bonnies’ 3-point shooting looks bad, but is a bit of a mirage; two players have combined to shoot 3-28 (10.7%), bringing down some very good efforts from the Bonnie guards. Then again, Andrew Nicholson also shoots 2-9 from beyond the arc… maybe their coach should sit some of the players down for a talk.
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Mississaugua (Toronto suburb) resident Andrew Nicholson is the star of the team. He’s an extremely effective scorer in the paint, with tricks, jump hooks, and even some scouts from the NBA giving a look on him every now and then. He carries the team on his shoulders, rebounds well, and has a little range on his shot. Nicholson blocks shots, as well. Fellow forward Da’Quon Cook from Elizabeth, NJ, has been a nice scoring complement to the team’s stars. He hasn’t rebounded as well, but that may be because of the presence of Nicholson. Then again, he didn’t rebound particularly well in his freshman year. He is backed up by former Marquette commit Brett Roseboro, who has shot poorly but rebounded decently.
Team captain, British Under-23 men’s national team member, and point guard Ogo Adegboye is a little turnover-prone. But he has shot extremely well from the outside in nearly 38 minutes of action per game. Clearly, the Bonnies don’t like to take him off the floor. He shoots 46% from beyond the arc (less inside), and gets to the free throw line almost as much as Nicholson… where he shoots 48.4%. How a guy can shoot the same from beyond the arc and from the free throw line is hard to fathom.
Michael Davenport starts at guard. His shot has been a little off (16.7% from beyond the arc, 41% overall), but shoots 82% from the free throw line. Demetrius Conger plays small forward. He is the Bonnies’ most dangerous offensive rebounder and has hit 56% of his three-point attempts (9 of 16). The team’s main backup at guard is Toronto-bred freshman Matthew Wright, who has shot and missed a fair amount in his time on the court. Dutch guard Sam de Haas, a captain of the Under-18 team and a member of the nation’s Under-20 squad, also gets some minutes.
St. John’s (5-1)
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St. John’s offense has gotten more efficient. And by a significant amount. Shot attempts instead of turnovers! Of the regulars, only Malik Boothe is turning the ball over; the team is learning the principles of Lavin and Dunlap – action that goes somewhere, instead of aimless dribbling and probing.
The ability of the team to get to the line seems to have improved, though they have been sent to the charity stripe at the ends of games, so that number doesn’t speak to the team’s ability to draw contact. And the conversion rate at the line is down from what it was last year at the same time. The offensive rebounding has also been very good, grabbing 37% of available misses instead of 35%.
The team will want to work on getting opponents to miss a little more. The style of pressure defense means that opponents will get some easy shots off when they beat the pressure, and the zone means that there will be open shots available. Still, there is significant improvement, which I’ve written about to greater extent on the East Coast Bias site.
Keys to the Game
Force Them Into Turnovers. Tuesday’s opponent features a number of players who have struggled to hold on to the ball against weak competition. St. John’s should press, trap, and harass them into turnovers, runouts, and a fast-paced beating reminiscent of the Drake game. It might come slowly, but St. John’s should have a stretch where they frustrate the Bonnies into a number of miscues and run with them.
Slow Down Nicholson. Last year, Andrew Nicholson looked like an NBA player against St. John’s. So did a number of other forwards. This game is a chance to see what changes in the defense will do to the kind of agile forward that ate up St. John’s last year in non-conference play; the zone will certainly help in restricting Nicholson’s touches.
Score Efficiently. St. John’s struggled to put the last game against Wagner away, in part because they clanked jump shots and free throws. The Red Storm have to take their chances and score with them.
Build On Success. The Red Storm have been great at holding on to the ball and getting their shots up. It would be good to see the team build on that and get another complete offensive performance from the whole team. Certainly, St. John’s can’t afford a sloppy, turnover-filled game; that could let the Bonnies back in the game.
Defensive Awareness. Cover the Bonnies’ very good three-point shooters. Even the bad ones; those guys are likely taking shots they think they can make. And St. John’s doesn’t want to be surprised by a sudden fit of straight-shooting by St. Bonaventure.
Prediction: I like the Johnnies to turn the Bonnies over a LOT. Johnnies win, 74-63.