Kloof is proof for all that is March Madness

Photo by Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

St. Bonaventure’s senior leader led all scorers Friday, and so much more.

By: Joe Manganiello

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — No matter what happens on Saturday, St. Bonaventure will always have Jordan Gather’s game-winning shot in the Barclays Center over Saint Louis.

And for that, St. Bonaventure has Charlon Kloof to thank.

Kloof, the Bonnie’s senior captain, assisted on Gather’s big shot, but his impact on Friday’s 71-68 victory extends far beyond that.

The Bonnies were not supposed to win, not against the conference’s best team – not against the conference’s best player, senior Jordair Jett, fresh off his acceptance of the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award.

And once the game started, it was painfully obvious that the moment belonged to Saint Louis. The Billikens shot 57 percent from the field in the first half, and led by as many as 13 points. Jett was in charge, looking over an offense clicking on all cylinders, and dishing out five assists in the same amount of time it took the Bonnies to reach two.

All the while, St. Bonaventure was putting together a stinker offensively. They were shooting less than 42 percent from the field in the first half, and had hit just one three-pointer. Gathers, a junior, was scoreless in the game’s first 20 minutes; senior Matthew Wright had only five.

With so much going against the Bonnies, it was improbable that the halftime score ended up being as manageable as it was – just 38-28.

And for that, St. Bonaventure has Charlon Kloof to thank.

Kloof scored 14 points on 4 for 5 shooting in the first half, winding and twisting to finish drives at the rim, and earning points at the foul line, where he was a perfect 5 for 5. He made the team’s lone three-pointer in the opening frame, and he added two steals.

“Wherever he goes, we go,” Wright said. “When things weren’t working in the first half, he had, I don’t know, 14 points to keep us afloat – basically single-handily putting his team on his shoulders in the first half.”

“They were playing really aggressive, denying man-to-man, and we couldn’t really get the ball to the wing,” head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We really had to do a lot of stuff off the dribble. That’s what Charlon did in the first half.”

Above all else, Kloof offered composure – the opportunity to make it a game in the second half.

“He was named captain as a junior,” Schmidt said. “You’ve got a foreign kid that’s only been in the States but six months or whatever; and for our guys to name him captain speaks volumes and tells you everything you need to know.”

“He’s the heart and soul of our team, and he’s the guy who gives us the pep talk before the game,” Wright said. “He’s the spearhead of our offense.”

The Bonnies responded to their captain, charging out of the gate to a 29-16 run. Wright hit four three-pointers over the run, which spanned the opening 12:40 of the second half. The St. Bonaventure backcourt, equipped with a pestering 1-3-1 press, forced eight Saint Louis turnovers. The Billikens missed 10 of their first 15 shots, and their double-digit lead was suddenly gone.

“Charlon – it all starts with him,” Wright said. “He definitely instigated the second-half attack.”

Kloof had just two points during the run, opting to distribute (passing out four assists) and hit the boards (grabbing four rebounds).

To know when to look to score and when to create for others is a skill set not every player has in their arsenal. This is why the Bonnies want the ball in Kloof’s hands at the end of games.

“We wanted Charlon to have the ball in his hands, to come off [the screen] and create – to find whatever he needed to find off the high ball screen,” Gathers said. “When Charlon passed me the ball, it was a great pass by our senior veteran and captain.”

“Unselfish,” Schmidt said. “He’s the leader of our team, and when he has the ball in his hands – we’re all going to talk about Jordan’s shot, and it was a great shot – if it wasn’t for Charlon delivering the ball, that shot would never have been presented itself.”

The assist on Gathers’s game-winner was not easy, arguably his most difficult play of the afternoon. As the seconds ticked from five to four to three, Kloof hard-dribbled to the right corner. The Billikens looked to trap Kloof, sending two additional defenders to the ball.

This proved to be a mistake.

Kloof left his feet and sent the ball perfectly over the top of 6-foot-11 senior Rob Loe, exactly where Gathers was waiting – hoping – to get a shot.

“Everyone is going to remember Jordan’s shot, but people are not going to remember Charlon’s pass on that one and the decision-making and his defense on Jett – the Player of the Year – so you have to give him a lot of credit,” Wright said.

A lot of things can happen in a college basketball tournament in March. Teams that are barely over .500 find ways to beat teams built around first-team all-conference selections. It happens because basketball is funny that way.

And it happens because of players like Charlon Kloof.

Joe Manganiello (@JoeMags_hoops) is a staff writer for pickinsplinters.com. He was published in the 2013-14 USA Today Sports College Basketball Preview. Peace, love, recycle and ball.

One Response to "Kloof is proof for all that is March Madness"

  1. pgotham   March 17, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Looks like Bona is choosing to not play in any post-season tourneys. Tough not seeing this guy and his teammates play again.

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