In front of more than 5,000 fans in the Reilly Center, St. Bonaventure retired the number of an all-time great Saturday night. Greg Sanders, St. Bonventure's all-time leading scorer and one of the men who led the Bonnies to an NIT title in 1977, will see his number 53 will forever hang from the rafters.
— Bonnies Athletics (@Go_Bonnies) December 3, 2016
But it's another, more current Bonnie that was on the tip of every St. Bonaventure fan's tongue leaving the arena.
...even after he went more scoreless for more than 14 minutes in the second half.
Jaylen Adams scored 29 points, and dished out eight assists, as the Bonnies held off a late Buffalo rally to move to 5-2 on the season.
The numbers are impressive. But watching Adams take over the game -- twice, was even more amazing. The first came late in the first half: Adams either assisted or scored on seven straight St. Bonaventure baskets from the 6:10 mark of the first half to the 1:35 mark, helping push the Bonnies to their biggest lead of the game during that stretch. It was part of an 18-point, four assist first half that put St. Bonaventure up thirteen at the break.
The second came after a long period of silence. Adams was stuck on 18 points until under the six minute mark of the second half, where he got to the free-throw line.
During that time, the Bulls had cut the Bonnies lead in half, and much of the energy had been sucked out of the crowded Reilly Center.
Then -- he decided to take over again.
A steal led to an easy run-out layup, then with under two minutes to play, the center nearly exploded after a clutch three from Adams put the Bonnies up 11.
"It was fun out there today," Adams said after the game. "We've got a team full of good players, so whenever you're going to focus on one, others are going to step up."
At this point, I began doing what many sports writers on a deadline do. Game looks like it's in hand? I'm going to open up my laptop, and start typing away.
Three pointers by Nick Perkins and Davonta Jordan cut the lead to five. After a Bonaventure free-throw by Adams, another Perkins three cut the lead to three with just 35 seconds left.
The Bulls would be within that same three-point margin, with possession, with 22 seconds to play.
...then disaster struck for UB. A disaster they've seen far too often this season. An unforced turnover, UB's 20th turnover of the game, would seal their fate and send the Bulls to their fourth loss of the season.
Buffalo head coach Nate Oats started his press conference the way he's started far too many before. "If you're going to beat a good team like St. Bonaventure, you can't turn the ball over 20 times." To put those 20 turnovers into some perspective...More than one-in-four Buffalo possessions ended in a turnover. That means they weren't even able to get a shot up.
Oats did praise his team's energy down the stretch, before noting, "Until you learn to do that for 40 minutes, you're not going to beat good teams."
In a vacuum, Perkins was every bit the equal of Adams; Clutch late three-point shooting, 24 points on 10-15 shooting for the game. But maybe it's because of the crowd, or that the Bulls comeback came up short; it just never felt like he was on the same level as Adams tonight.
"Until you learn to do that for 40 minutes, you're not going to beat good teams."
We already knew Adams was going to be good. When you're named all-Atlantic 10 first team in the preseason, when you're already averaging more than 20-points a game before tonight, and had a 27-point performance just a few nights ago, this kind of night isn't exactly a shock to anyone.
But not all big-time performances are created equal. Tonight, Adams was dynamic, he made clutch shots, and he showed a killer instinct when his team needed it the most.
It's hard to believe this kid is just a junior.
Tonight, the Bonnies remembered the legacy that Greg Sanders left on this town, this program, and these fans.
Adams legacy is still being written. But what a tale he's already weaved.
Four Factors for this one. Turnovers, fouls killed UB. (Didn't I say that in my preview? Why yes, yes I did) pic.twitter.com/NzeuhHSSn0
— Catlin Bogard (@CatlinBogard) December 3, 2016
Buffalo = turnover machine
This is getting to be a major problem. Tack on tonight's 27.2% offensive turnover rate, and the Bulls are now turning the ball over on more possessions than all but six Division I basketball teams. Yes, the eventual return of CJ Massinburg will help, but this problem goes deeper than just a single person's absence. Multiple traveling violations , (new emphasis or not, St. Bonaventure isn't having these issues) offensive fouls, and just bad passing is stymying what is otherwise a strong offense.
UB was one attempt under a 50% shooting night, and hit 12-27 (44.4%) from three-point range. You're supposed to win games with those kinds of offensive numbers.
There are two reasons Buffalo is constantly on the wrong side of the foul situation
Even if you take out the Bonnies right free-throws in the final minute from intentional fouls, UB was outshot at the free-throw line 25-13. This is a full-blown trend at this point. Outside of their games against non-Division I opposition, the Bulls haven't had more free-throw attempts than a single opponent this season.
The problem stems from both sides of the ball. Offensively, Buffalo isn't aggressive enough, and takes too many jumpers. When you hit them, like tonight, that's not a big deal. When you don't, which is more nights than not, then it becomes one.
Defensively, the Bulls are in the bottom-100 in defensive free-throw rate: essentially the number of free-throws they allow per 100 possessions. Assuming teams shoot 70% or so from the charity stripe, the Bulls are giving up about 3-4 points a game from free-throws alone than "average" teams.
The lack of foul shots is one flaw Oats found in Perkins game tonight.
The Bonnies defense is opportunistic, which is what makes it quite strong
There are, generally, two types of really good defenses: There are the half-court grinders, teams that force you to take a lot of clock, keep everything in front of them, and force opponents to take bad shots.
Then there are teams like St. Bonaventure; teams that jump the lanes, try to rush you up and force you to make a mistake.
Each has it's own pro's and con's. There's not much the former can do against players or teams that get hot, and the latter can often give up big plays by being too aggressive.
There's no question that St. Bonaventure is, to some extent, doing just that. Division I opponents are shooting better than 40% on the year against the Bonnies, and the Bulls did just that on Saturday. But when you offense can force turnovers at the rate which St. Bonaventure does, and turn those into points, (23 off 20 UB turnovers) that can make up for the lack of that "grinder" type defense.
With the Florida game being an obvious exception, the toughest games in the Bonnies schedule are yet to come. If the defense can continue to create chances for turnovers, they'll be successful. If not, things could get a lot tougher.
St. Bonaventure should root hard for Buffalo (and Siena, honestly) the rest of the season
As I mentioned in my preview for this game, the Bulls are on the outside of the RPI top-100 currently. If Buffalo can sneak in, it gives the Bonnies another resume boosting win come NCAA Tournament Time. They'll probably be close. Same goes for Siena, to be honest.
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