By PAUL GOTHAM
OLEAN — In a contest decided by 16 points it can be difficult finding a single play where the match tilted in favor of one team. Maybe it’s a case of preventing the need for a game-saving effort.
Less than six minutes remained in Sunday’s Atlantic 10 battle inside the Reilly Center, and the host St. Bonaventure Bonnies held a nine-point advantage over the Richmond Spiders. Bona teetered between extending the lead and letting it slip away.
Ninety seconds prior they held a 12-point edge. An empty trip down floor for the Bonnies this time and Richmond, which finished the night with nine 3-pointers, could make it a six-point game.
That was the scene when Marcus Posley let it fly from behind the arc. It was the type of shot seeking to find and pierce the opponent’s heart. Earlier in the half, Bona’s senior guard drilled back-to-back triples in the matter of 24 seconds. This attempt, though, found iron and kicked to the right side of the floor.
Enter Idris Taqqee.
The 6-4 guard slipped along the baseline, climbed the ladder over Richmond’s 6-8 Terry Allen and redirected the rebound diagonal to his teammate Jaylen Adams standing outside the arc. Seconds later, Posley had another chance. This time he didn’t miss.
“That play is a big play,” Bona head coach Mark Schmidt said of Taqqee’s effort to extend the possession. “You look at the end of the game. We won by 16, but there are plays that are crucial, that happen at crucial points. That was one of them.”
The Bonnies maintained the double-digit lead for the remainder of the game en route to an 84-68 victory.
“Those plays don’t show up on the stat sheet, but those are crucial plays,” Schmidt added. “Something that the coaching staff and the players appreciate.”
That Taqqee was on the floor came as no surprise. Despite averaging 4.1 rebounds and just 3.5 points, the sophomore plays more than 23 minutes a game. On this day, against the A-10’s most prolific offense, Taqqee logged 31 including 18 in the second half as the Bonnies held Richmond to 29 points on 9-of-33 shooting.
“Idris Taqqee has made plays all season,” Schmidt added. “His numbers aren’t great, but he makes the right play at the right time.”
It was Taqee who helped ice the win over Rhode Island. Clinging to a three-point edge in the final minute with the Rams looking to extend the game, Taqqee (shooting at that time 9-for-17 from the free throw line or 52.9 percent) grabbed his only offensive rebound of the night. Instinctively he passed the ball to Adams (65-of-76/85.5) who was immediately fouled. Adams converted both tries on the way to a 69-64 Bona win.
The Bonnies dropped their next three before downing Richmond.
Sunday, Taqqee showed poise, again, as he got the better of Richmond’s leading rebounder. Making that play without committing a foul is one thing. Making that play and delivering a pinpoint diagonal pass to an open teammate was special.
Trailing by six at half, Bona stared at the reality of a four-game losing streak. Instead the Bonnies, which opened A-10 play with four wins, now sits tied for fourth with George Washington at 5-3.
“Coming off a three-game losing streak, this was a big game,” Schmidt said. “I told the team it’s not a do or die game, but if we want to go where we want to go, and we want to compete for one of the top four spots in the conference, you got to win your home games.
“A game like today, this was in essence a must-win for us.”
Posley finished with 26 on 8-of-17 from the floor including 4-of-8 from long range. Adams added 18 with six assists. Dion Wright notched his conference-leading ninth double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Bona’s defense made the difference.
Richmond came into the game averaging 80 points and ranked top ten in the country for field goal percentage (49.8), 2-pt. field goal percentage (57.0) and effective field goal percentage (60.2/factors both 2-pt. shots and 3-pt. shots).
They looked the part in the first half hitting 16-of-32.
Mixing zone and man-to-man early, the Bonnies held Richmond without a field goal for the first 5:05 of the second stanza.
“In the second half I thought we were a little bit more stagnant when they went zone,” Richmond’s Chris Mooney noted. “We weren’t able to get the ball inside enough. We would be looking for a few too many things rather just playing. It bothered us.
“It probably would have bothered us less if we had hit a couple threes. We didn’t shoot the ball well. I just give them credit. They have good length along the back, and they were able to be aggressive the less we went inside.”
The Bonnies turned 11 Richmond turnovers into 22 points and outscored the Spiders 36-26 in the paint.
“I felt the second half, that’s the best basketball we can play from a defensive standpoint. Holding a team to 27 percent from the field, 25 percent from threes, keeping them off the foul line, outrebounding them…When we play that way defensively, we can compete with anybody in this league.”
T.J. Cline led Richmond with 18 points, but the junior forward hit just one field goal in the first 18 minutes of the second half. Khwan Fore netted 13 in the first half. Bona held the guard to one bucket coming out of the locker room. Allen finished with 14. ShawnDre’ Jones had 11.
Richmond (11-9/3-5) hosts George Mason (7-14/1-7) on Wednesday.
The Bonnies (13-6/5-3) travel to Philadelphia to take on the Saint Joseph’s Hawks (18-3/7-1).
Both games have a 7 p.m. tip off.