Bonnies lock down Saints to win Franciscan Cup - VIDEO
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies are showing a knack for winning under vastly different circumstances this year. Mark Schmidt's squad followed up an 82-79 shootout win over Buffalo with an ugly 58-43 triumph over the Siena Saints to claim the Franciscan Cup.
The Bonaventure win, which aired on the NBC Sports Network, was borderline unwatchable at times. Both teams shot 35% or lower for the game, but it was St. Bonaventure that protected the basketball. Committing only five turnovers to Siena's 17, the Bonnies rode double-figure scoring from Demitrius Conger, Chris Johnson and Marquise Simmons en route to the home victory.
One of Schmidt's post-game quotes really stuck out to me: "You learn how to win by winning." It's simple, obviously, but his Bonnies are bearing the fruits of last season's tournament run in winning close games, winning games where they play poorly and taking charge in the second half recently. St. Bonaventure has out-scored its opponent in the second half of the last four games -- the Bonnies are 3-1 in that span -- and excelling down the stretch of games, especially in clutch situations, is the mark of a veteran team with NCAA Tournament potential.
Harkening back to yesterday's Tsuj's Ten, where we looked at the surprising play of Marquise Simmons and the offensive disappointment of Charlon Kloof, both points held true in the triumph over Siena. Simmons was exceptional, knocking down two mid-range jumpers and fighting tenaciously on the glass.
Kloof's impact wasn't on the offensive end (eight points, two assists, 22 minutes), but he made life miserable for Siena's sophomore guard Evan Hymes, the Saints' leading scorer at 14 per game. Even though the 5'8 guard averages five turnovers per game, Hymes coughed up the ball six times against Kloof, as the Bonnies' decision to show aggressively on ball screens kept Hymes from darting into the lane.
The 2-7 Saints are on a five-game losing skid, and St. Bonaventure's Tuesday win was expected as 13 points favorites in front of a boisterous Reilly Center crowd. What it proved, though, was that this iteration of the Bonnies has taken valuable lessons from last year -- most notably, how to win in any situation -- and is excelling even with the graduation of Andrew Nicholson.
(Header photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics).