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Immediate reactions: St. Bonaventure 74, Niagara 72

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Not every college basketball player has the pleasure of experiencing a Tyus Edney moment, but St. Bonaventure’s Charlon Kloof beat the buzzer with a coast-to-coast layup to push St. Bonaventure over Niagara 74-72 at the Gallagher Center.

What initially looked like a St. Bonaventure rout evolved into a seesaw battle through the exploits of Niagara upperclassmen Antoine Mason (24 points) and Marvin Jordan (20 points), but the former couldn’t beat the shot clock on a jumper with five seconds left, setting the stage for Kloof’s heroics.

With the clock halted due to the shot clock violation—important due to the fact there were just five seconds left on the game clock—Kloof in-bounded to Youssou Ndoye before receiving an immediate pass back.

Benefiting from a designed screen higher up the floor, the Bona point guard (pictured in header) beat multiple Purple Eagles to the rim and finished with his left hand as the buzzer rang.

One-man tornado Antoine Mason, the nation’s leading scorer, buoyed Niagara back from a 10-point halftime deficit by scoring 18 of his 24 points in the second half after St. Bonaventure’s zone kept him at bay for much of the first 20 minutes.

An early second-half explosion by streaky Marvin Jordan kept Niagara in the hunt, and Mason’s toughness down the stretch temporarily wore down the visitors. Unlike the Purple Eagles’ win against Davidson at the First Niagara Center, Mason couldn’t carry Niagara on his back until the conclusion of the contest.

Here are today’s roasted takes:

Gathers’ return: St. Bonaventure’s junior reserve guard Jordan Gathers missed two games to injury—including the 78-73 loss to the UB Bulls—but he returned with a vengeance against Iona (17 points, 4 boards, 4 assists) with Matthew Wright out of the lineup.

After an off-night against Wake Forest, Gathers played sterling basketball off the bench, hitting 5-8 shots and two three-pointers en route to 14 points.

His biggest moment of the night, however, came on the defensive end, as Gathers was isolated one vs. one with Mason on Niagara’s final possession. The SBU guard didn’t fall for Mason’s juke and forced an off-balance shot that was released after the shot clock struck zero.

Hank Gathers’ nephew provides SBU head coach Mark Schmidt with an invaluable ball-handler off the bench—taking pressure off the workhorse Kloof—as well as a capable off-guard who can knock down open looks.

Don’t be shocked if he steps in and fills the scoring void that Matthew Wright will leave behind once he graduates.

Marvin the Microwave: Three threes—including a wild fall-away heat-check heave after he made two straight—brought NU back to within two early in the second half before the Bonnies’ Charlon Kloof responded with a three from the top of the key, but the momentum swung briefly in the Purple Eagles’ favor.

The diminutive senior is erratic—as I noted in the preview, he’s never shot over 40 percent in a season—but when he gets on a roll, he’s absolutely deadly from beyond the arc.

Jordan’s spurt played a big role in Niagara’s ability to keep the score close deep into the second half, but he did not attempt a shot in the game’s final 13:57. We’re looking at you, Chris Casey.

Niagara’s ball-handlers: The obvious challenge confronting Niagara head coach Chris Casey before the game was St. Bonaventure’s size advantage, but his Purple Eagles were only outscored 20-16 inside during the first 20 minutes. Instead, Niagara’s careless ball-handling proved its undoing throughout—as the Bonnies built a double-digit lead with a 15-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

One particular culprit Saturday was NU guard Tahjere McCall, who tends to let his emotions dictate how he plays. Sure, McCall is a valuable sixth man masquerading as a Division I starting point guard, but he’s proven to be too daring with the ball in his hands.

McCall’s drive-and-dish to Ramone Snowden demonstrates that he’s not bereft of creativity—just not particularly smart with the ball.

With raw-as-can-be freshman Cameron Fowler—who played very well in spurts but should be eased along—and turnover-prone Wesley Myers as his other options, Casey is stuck in a rut when it comes to facilitating offense. Fowler’s second-half performance should sway Casey to at least increase his minutes.

All brown in the paint: As we alluded to in the game preview, St. Bonaventure had an unquestioned advantage in the paint, boasting five rotation players 6’7 or taller.

True 7-footer Youssou Ndoye (pictured right) was the obvious post presence, but in the first 20 minutes on Saturday, it was Dion Wright who imposed his will with a solid 8-point, 6-rebound first half.

Although Niagara was able to mitigate some of the interior damage with scrappy efforts from Ramone Snowden, Rayvon Harris and Marcus Ware, the Purple Eagles were helped by an astounding number of travels from the Bonnies’ big men.

Marquise Simmons in particular struggled with his feet in the block, picking up his plant foot regularly and opting not to dribble on drives.

While none of the Bonnies’ big men can be considered pure scorers, the 20 offensive rebounds collected by St. Bonaventure were a factor.

Mase Watch: When you’re the premier scorer in college basketball—at least on paper—it can’t be easy for Anthony Mason to deal with attention from opponents from game to game.

Mason’s biggest asset is his strength and slashing ability—as well as his uncanny ability to keep his body under control at the rim while absorbing contact.

Against St. Bonaventure’s long 2-3 zone, however, the 6’3 junior was forced to rely more on his teammates to put him in good positions—breaking down the Bonnies off the dribble proved an arduous task each trip down the floor.

Casey adjusted in the second half—finally—by calling for more ball-screens against the zone, and this allowed Mason a little more freedom to at least dribble into the lane and draw contact.

At this stage of the season, it’s evident that Mason cannot rely on his teammates to put him in advantageous situations.

Stat-line I liked for SBU: 20 offensive rebounds which led to 15 second-chance points. In a game decided by just a bucket, this statistic weighs heavy.

Stat-line I didn’t like for SBU: 10-22 from the free-throw line. Yuck.

Stat-line I liked for Niagara: 5-8 three-point shooting from Jordan. If you told me before the game that Jordan would take eight threes and connect on over half, I would have predicted a Niagara win.

Stat-line I didn’t like for Niagara: 19 turnovers. You know what? It’s hard to win basketball games when you’re one shy of 20 turnovers.

One further note: I can’t understate how well St. Bonaventure’s fan base travels, as the boisterous brown-clad supporters made a substantial difference head coach Mark Schmidt noted after the game.

(All photos courtesy of Don Nieman from the Niagara vs. St. Bonaventure game—see the whole gallery here).

TAGGED: antoine mason, charlon kloof, niagara purple eagles, st. bonaventure bonnies

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