By Paul Gotham
LEWISTON, NY – Charlon Kloof scored at the buzzer as the St. Bonaventure Bonnies fended off the Niagara University Purple Eagles, 74-72 in Big 4 action at the Taps Gallagher Center, Saturday night.
Without needing a timeout, Kloof went end to end in the game’s final five seconds for the game-winner.
“It’s special situations,” head coach Mark Schmidt said of the play used for the game-winner. “Any time it’s four seconds or above, that’s one of our plays that we do. Give our guys credit. We didn’t have a timeout, and they ran it properly. Charlon did a great job of getting to the rim and finishing.”
Kloof inbounded the ball to teammate Youssou Ndoye, took the return pass, sprinted the length of the court and finished in traffic.
“I just focused on the basket,” Kloof said. “That was my mission.”
“We were back in support,” said Niagara head coach Chris Casey of his team’s defense on the play. “I have to watch the tape, but it looked like we got split off the dribble to the glass, and we needed to close the driving lane.”
The final play added some irony to the matchup. The Purple Eagles which have thrived this season creating contact and getting to the free throw line had to make the choice between fouling or giving the lane.
“It’s difficult on these guys because the way the game is called,” Casey continued. “Contact fouls with five seconds to go, and you know he’s going to go with a full head of steam. The last thing you want to do is foul. What we wanted to do is close the driving lane and make him shoot over us.”
Kloof’s shot came after the Bona defense caused a shot clock violation on the previous possession. Jordan Gathers forced the nation’s leading scorer, Antoine Mason, into a rushed shot which found only the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
Mason scored 18 of his 24 points after the break. Like he has in so many other games, the junior guard broke down the SBU defense off the dribble and was able to get to the free throw line repeatedly where he hit 11-of-16.
On Niagara’s last offensive possession it was a different case.
“He got to the lane at will, and we couldn’t really control his penetration at times,” Gathers stated. “It was the last possession. We all had to buckle down. I had my guys behind me. We came together on that last possession.”
“We wanted to get the clock as deep as we could and get the ball to Antoine,” Casey explained. “We wanted to get the shot at the end of the clock.”
Mason’s shot went long, and the Bonnies took possession.
“That last possession is my fault,” Mason commented. “I played with it too much. I had him on the one move, then I stepped back again and had to shoot it.”
Marvin Jordan led the Purple Eagles back from a double-digit halftime deficit. The senior guard tallied 10 points in the first 3:34 of the second stanza. He drilled a trey in transition then came off a ball screen going to his right and nailed a pullup 3-pointer while drawing contact. He connected on the free throw for a four-point play, and his third trifecta made it 42-40 in favor of St. Bonaventure.
“I felt like we needed a spark,” Jordan stated. “If anybody was going to do it at that point, it had to be me.”
Jordan finished the day with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting including 5-of-8 behind the arc, but he came up gingerly after a play at the basket and did not take a shot in the game’s 15 minutes.
SBU rode a 13-0 run to a double-digit advantage at half.
Trailing by three, Kloof started the spurt with a jumper. Gathers hit one of two free throws. A Kloof steal and end-to-end dunk fetched a timeout from the Niagara bench.
It didn’t slow the Brown and White.
Dion Wright hit a pair from the charity stripe. Denzel Gregg used a baseline dropstep then went under the rim for a reverse layup. Kloof led Gregg in transition for a layup. Wright added another bucket.
By the time Ramone Snowden hit a jumper in the lane, St. Bonaventure led 31-23.
Mason cut the deficit to six at 31-25 when he grabbed a long rebound and went the length of the floor for a layup.
Marquise Simmons made it a double-digit affair when he nailed a mid-range jumper from the left side of the lane. Kloof pushed it to a dozen with a free throw.
Cameron Fowler closed the scoring in the first half with an end-to-end layup.
SBU led 39-29.
Kloof paced the Bonnies with 18 on 6-of-14 shooting. Wright registered his first career double-double knocking down 14 points and grabbing 10 boards.
Gathers added 14, and Andell Cumberbatch chipped in 11.
The Bonnies outrebounded their counterparts 45-31 including 20 offensive rebounds which they converted into a 15-3 advantage in second-chance points.
The Purple Eagles came into the game averaging more than 34 free throw attempts per game. They took just two free throws in the first half and ended the contest 16-of-24 from the charity stripe.
After starting the game hitting 7 of their first 14 shots, NU made just five of the next 14 shots.
Tahjere McCall dished out a game-high six assists.
NU’s Marcus Ware corralled a team-high eight rebounds.
Niagara turned over the ball 19 times while handing out just 11 assists.
The game was the 153rd meeting between the Big 4 rivals. SBU holds an 85-68 advantage in the series.
Paul Gotham is the founder, owner, editor and lead writer at Pickin’ Splinters. Paul is the Communications and Media Director of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. He is a contributor at USA Today and member of the USBWA. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PickinSplinters.