By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — If Charles Dickens had been a sportswriter, he would have thoroughly enjoyed recapping Friday’s St. Bonaventure-Davidson game at the Reilly Center.
Dickens passed 21 years before basketball was even invented, but the latest showcase between the Bonnies and Wildcats was indeed a tale of two halves.
Bona, led by Kyle Lofton and Courtney Stockard, went on a torrid 15-0 run from the nine-minute mark in the first half until the under-four-minute media timeout. The surge turned a five-point deficit into a seven-point lead and displayed the young squad’s entire upside. Davidson, charged with a ten-point deficit at halftime, responded with a stealthy zone and three-point barrage in the second half to prove they are one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10.
The damage? A 41-22 second half that propelled Davidson to a 75-66 victory. The ‘Cats improved to 16-5 and 7-1 in the A-10. The Bonnies dropped to 8-13 overall, 4-4 in conference.
Lofton enhanced his Rookie of the Year candidacy with a 17-point first half that saw him make seven of nine field goal attempts. He and Courtney Stockard were a formidable tandem in the first 20 minutes, combining for 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting as neither left the floor. After Davidson answered the 15-0 run with an 8-1 run of its own to cut Bonaventure’s lead to one, Lofton scored eight points over the next 2:19 and the Bonnies swaggered to the locker room with a 10-point lead.
Wildcats coach Bob McKillop countered Bonaventure’s success by transitioning to a zone defense after halftime. For Davidson, a team with an outside chance of returning to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, the move may have saved it from an all-or-nothing scenario in the A-10 Tournament. The decision ultimately falls on the head coach, but like all discussions with the Wildcats coaching staff, it was a family affair; McKillop’s son Matt is second in command.
“Matt McKillop, our assistant coach who had the scout, suggested that we go to the zone in the second half,” Bob McKillop said. “Sure enough, it paid dividends for us. It broke their rhythm. They had gotten a great rhythm in the first half. They were getting driving lanes, they were getting open shots, they were making shots… We had no pace to our game and the combination of no pace to our game and their great rhythm got them the lead.”
At the media timeout with 7:19 to play, SBU had just nine second-half points and no longer had the lead it clung to for most of the period. A one-point deficit against the Wildcats may have had fans recalling last season’s triple overtime thriller, and Lofton’s jumper to take back the lead with seven minutes to play had them loud again.
But Davidson, specifically Kellan Grady, got hot at the right time. After being blocked by Osun Osunniyi, Grady went on a personal 8-0 run aided by back-to-back three-pointers to extend the Wildcat lead to 64-57 with 3:49 to play. Jon Axel Gudmundsson, the other half of the league’s best backcourt, closed the game with 11 points in the final 2:19 to give his team the win and make the game look more lopsided than the action suggested.
“Going into halftime, you tell the guys the first 10 possessions of the second half, the first five minutes, the lead’s going to go from 10 to 20 or 10 to zero,” Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt said. “We come out on the first possession, it was a deflection, we couldn’t get the ball, they hit a three. It went down from there. I thought their zone was effective. I thought we got good looks, we just couldn’t make any shots. Against the 2-3 zone, just like everyone knows, you have to make shots from the perimeter. We didn’t do that in the second half and give them credit; they hit some big shots.”
Grady scored 29 to lead all scorers. Gudmundsson had 19, as did Luke Frampton, who nailed three three-pointers as part of a 13-point first half.
Lofton scored 24 while Stockard posted 18 and LaDarien Griffin added 10. The rest of the team scored just 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. Osunniyi made three of his four shot attempts and swatted four blocks, but for most of the contest the offense was a two-man show. The Bonnies continued a season-long struggle from the three-point line, going 6-of-22 as a team and seeing just one of 11 long-range attempts fall in the second half.
The Wildcats didn’t feature balanced scoring, either; Grady, Gudmundsson and Frampton scored 76 percent of their points. Davidson’s forwards didn’t score a single point.
However, the difference between Davidson’s offensive imbalance and Bonaventure’s can be best illustrated by one stat: Davidson made eight three-pointers in the second half. St. Bonaventure made eight total field goals.
“I feel like with us, once teams start getting on runs, we stop being aggressive,” Lofton said. “That hurts us, and then people weren’t making shots. They had open looks, just weren’t hitting them.”