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Bonnies Face George Mason in A-10 Quarter Finals

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St. Bonaventure earned the fourth seed in the 2019 Atlantic 10 Championship Tournament and will open play in the quarterfinal round against George Mason on Friday, March 15, at 2:30. Thursday afternoon, fifth-seeded George Mason edged George Washington 61-57.

BONA-NOTEWORTHY

• The Bonnies enter the A-10 Tournament on a roll, winners of seven of their last eight games. Defense has been the key, as St. Bonaventure held A-10 opponents 61.4 points per game, second-best in the conference.
• Senior Courtney Stockard earned first team All-Conference honors from the A-10’s coaches, a testament to his value to the Bonnies and skill as a player. He ranks among the A-10’s top 20 in scoring, rebounding and assists and is a catalyst of the Bonnies’ defense.
• Point guard Kyle Lofton and center Osun Osunniyi both made the A-10 All-Rookie team, the first time in school history that two Bonnies made it in the same year. Osunniyi is No. 1 in the country among freshmen (7th overall) in blocked shots and is third in the A-10 in rebounding. Lofton ranks among the A-10 leaders in scoring, assists, steals, free throw percentage and minutes played.
• Senior LaDarien Griffin continues to spark the Bonnies on both ends of the court. He is averaging a career high 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
• St. Bonaventure now has five seasons in a row of double-digit Atlantic 10 wins, the top active streak among A-10 teams.

St. Bonaventure vs. George Mason: The Last Meeting
Feb. 17, 2019 at Reilly Center: Bonnies 79, Patriots 56
Freshman Kyle Lofton dazzled with a career high 32 points and seven assists as the Bonnies rolled past George Mason, 79-56. The Bonnies had their hottest start of the season, holding the Patriots scoreless over the first four minutes and scoring 16 unanswered points by the first media timeout. During that stretch, Lofton scored 11 points including a trio of three-point field goals.  The Patriots’ first field goal came at the 15:45 mark, and they did close to within 18-11 after a Jason Douglas-Stanley three-pointer at the 12:26 mark. But the Bonnies would continue their strong play on both ends of the court, holding the Patriots to just 9-of-25 from the field in the first half en route to a 42-25 lead at halftime.  In the second half, Lofton combined with seniors LaDarien Griffin and Stockard. Back-to-back buckets from Stockard to open the half, paired with another bucket from Lofton gave the Bonnies their largest lead of the day at 48-25 at the 17:30 mark. Mason used a 12-3 run to narrow the game to within 10 with 4:44 left. But a trey by freshman Dominick Welch, who finished the game with 10 points, followed by buckets from Stockard and Griffin and back-to-back threes by Lofton left no doubt as to the game’s outcome.

With A Win: The Bonnies would advance to Saturday’s semifinals for a game that would start at 1:00.

Schmidt Leads Bonnies To 4th Place Finish
This season may have been Mark Schmidt’s best coaching in his 12 seasons at St. Bonaventure. Chosen to finish ninth in the Atlantic 10’s preseason poll, the Bonnies surprised the A-10 by finishing fourth – their third time in the past four seasons in the top four. The challenges facing Schmidt and the Bonnies this year were substantial. St. Bonaventure returned only four rotation players from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. The Bonnies lost three starters to graduation last spring, and two of them, Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, both earned first team All-Conference honors last season. The third starter, Idris Taqqee, played in over 100 career games. Adams, Mobley and Taqqee combined for 3,713 points over their careers and were a part of 87 wins, a school record for a graduating class. In addition, Schmidt also had to integrate three freshman into the rotation this year — not a normal occurance for Schmidt’s previous teams, which normally relied on juniors and seniors. Altogether, the Bonnies have four freshmen and two junior transfers who are first-year players.

A10 Tournament Record Under Schmidt
Mark Schmidt is 9-8 in Atlantic 10 Tournament games with one title in 2012. Under Schmidt, the Bonnies have reached at least the quarterfinals each of the last four seasons. In the nine years that the Bonnies advanced to the A-10 Tournament under Schmidt, they have won at least one game six years. Last season, St. Bonaventure defeated Richmond in the quarterfinals but fell to eventual champion Davidson in the semifinals.

Senior Class Success
Over their four years, seniors LaDarien Griffin, Nelson Kaputo and Courtney Stockard amassed a four-year Atlantic 10 Conference record of 52-25, a winning percentage of 70 percent – a period that is unmatched by any prior St. Bonaventure graduating class. Overall the past four years, the Bonnies were 84-43. The span included three consecutive 20-win seasons and two postseason berths.

What A Turnaround
St. Bonaventure completely turned around its season. Once 4-10 after a loss at George Mason on Jan. 6, the Bonnies have gone 12-5 since to move their overall record above .500 at 16-15.

Defense Near Top Of A-10
Coach Mark Schmidt often talks about hoping to see his team improve through conference play, and that has been the case this season, most notably on the defensive end. Certainly, having their full lineup back healthy made a difference to the Bonnies defense. With that full lineup, the Bonnies held 11 of their 18 Atlantic 10 opponents to 60 points or less, going 11-0 in those games. A look at some of the Bonnies’ defensive ranks in A-10 games:
Category                     Avg./Stat         A-10 Rank
Scoring defense            61.4 ppg           2nd
Opp. FG Pct.                 .396                 3rd
Blocked Shots                4.6                  2nd
Turnover Margin           +0.9                  5th
Rebound Margin           +2.2                  6th
Defensive Reb. %         .736                  6th

Team Record Six Straight A-10 Road Wins
Prior to the New Year, St. Bonaventure did not win a true road game, but was able to turn around its fortunes in a big way. From Jan. 23 to March 2, the Bonnies won a team record six straight A-10 road games, winning at UMass, Richmond, Duquesne, Saint Joseph’s, Fordham and George Washington.

Stockard Shows Versatility And Value
Senior Courtney Stockard continues to prove that he is one of the most versatile, talented players in the A-10. Capable of playing — and guarding — at least three positions, Stockard ranks seventh in the A-10 in scoring at 15.6 points per game. He also ranks 19th in the conference in rebounding (5.8 per game) and 12th in assists (3.6). Stockard has scored in double figures in 21 of his 23 games played. He missed the first six games of the season with a knee injury and the Bonnies went 1-5 in those contests; since Stockard returned, St. Bonaventure is 15-10 including a mark of 12-6 in the Atlantic 10. Over Stockard’s 56 career games in the lineup, the Bonnies are 38-18.

The Future – And The Present
St. Bonaventure is the only Atlantic 10 team with three freshmen in its starting lineup. Osun Osunniyi, Kyle Lofton and Dominick Welch are combining to average 28.8 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, which is the highest production of any group of freshmen in the A-10. All three players went to a year of prep school before enrolling at St. Bonaventure.

Griffin Leading As A Senior
St. Bonaventure had to play without one of its senior leaders for a long stretch this season as senior forward LaDarien Griffin was sidelined 10 games by a sprained knee. He suffered the injury in the Nov. 7 season opener against Bucknell. Griffin, who was named the Atlantic 10’s Most Improved Player in 2017-18, returned to action Dec. 21 at Northeastern. Understandably, it took him some to regain his form. But since Atlantic 10 play started, he returned to being the explosive, athletic player he was last year. In A-10 games, Griffin averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds while converting 53 percent of his shots from the field. For the entire season, he is averaging 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Griffin averaged 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a junior. His length and athleticism also enables Griffin to be a versatile defender, as his 20 blocks and 23 steals attest.

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