By Paul Gotham
St. BONAVENTURE, NY — After a flurry of lead changes and just as many missed chances, Mark Schmidt and his St. Bonaventure Bonnies found what they needed to survive.
Demitrius Conger and Matthew Wright capped a late rally as St. Bonaventure defeated the University at Buffalo Bulls, 82-79 in Big 4 action on Bob Lanier Court at the Reilly Center, Saturday night.
Wright’s steal and layup in the final 30 seconds gave the Bonnies a decisive advantage, and Conger sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with one second remaining.
“We showed some resiliency, fighting back when we were down,” Schmidt said. “It was a great college game. Give them(UB) credit. They played well. Somehow, someway we found a way to win.”
Wright’s steal was the third time in the game’s final 10 minutes where the Bonnies followed a UB timeout with a defensive stand. Bona caused a shot clock violation with under nine minutes remaining in game time. The Brown and White also came through at the two-minute mark.
Marquise Simmons created another turnover on the next possession when he got his hand on the ball in the lane and deflected it to Wright who went the length of the floor. Conger followed with a rebound and went to the line where he sank two from the line to end the scoring.
“We emphasize a lot of jabbing at the ball,” Wright explained when asked about his steal late in the game. “On the last play, I helped a little earlier and forced him to make a decision in mid-air, and I was able to steal the ball.”
The sequence closed a half which saw 16 lead changes and seven ties.
UB grabbed its first lead of the game 40 seconds into the second stanza when Will Regan knocked down one of two free throws.
It was just the start of a see-saw affair for 20 minutes.
Conger wasted little time regaining the lead for Bona setting a ball screen for Wright and stepping back for a catch-and-shoot jumper. Conger followed on the next possession with a drive from the top, and Bona led 44-41.
But UB would not go away and used long-range attack to grab a five-point edge.
Jarod Oldham connected twice from long range and Tony Watson to give UB the lead. Javon McCrea hit a pull up jumper just outside the lane for 63-58 UB lead.
The Bonnies scratched and clawed their way back from there.
“Offensively we did a good job across the board,” Schmidt said. “We did a heckuva job.”
Youssou Ndoye gave Bona its largest lead of the first half with a traditional three-point play. Eric Mosley set up the basket with a ball fake from the top before feeding the post where Ndoye drew a foul on Cameron Downing before finishing. One free throw later and SBU led 36-26.
Ndoye’s basket capped a 7-2 run started by a Conger pull up three from the right side. Chris Johnson followed and hit one of two from the charity stripe.
The Bulls used the long ball to score 10 straight and tie the score before halftime. Regan knocked down a trey. Oldham stepped in a passing lane for a steal. The junior guard ran down the loose ball in the corner and fed Watson who returned the, and Oldham nailed the three. UB trailed 39-36.
Watson hit from behind the arc at the buzzer to even the score. Xavier Ford assisted on the play.
Bona looked poised to runaway with the game early. Ndoye finished a jump hook in the lane on a feed from Conger. Mosley stole the ball on the next possession and led Conger into the open for a tomahawk jam.
After Jarryn Skeete connected for three, Conger hit his own. Jordan Gathers followed with a steal and dunk to give the Brown and White a 28-19 advantage.
But UB responded. Auraum Nuriankh hit a three, and UB closed within five at 29-24.
The Bulls hit 13-of-24 from the arc with Oldham leading the way (5-7). Watson added four-of-eight from long range.
McCrea notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. McCrea, a junior, scored his 1,000th point of his career.
Conger scored a season-high 20. He added four assists and two steals.
Wright added 11 with a career-high seven rebounds.
Chris Johnson scored 14, and Charlon Kloof had 10.
The Bonnies missed more free throws (16) than the Bulls made (12).
SBU went 22-of-38 from the charity stripe.
St. Bonaventure outscored UB in the paint (36-24), on points off turnovers (21-11), on second chance points (16-8) and fast break points (23-4).
UB’s bench outscored Bona’s, 28-18.
Bona improves to 4-2 with the win. Five of SBU’s first six games have been decided five or less points.
UB falls to 2-7.