Mark Schmidt isn’t about to lose his perspective because his St. Bonaventure team has lost four consecutive basketball games. He figures nothing is wrong with the Bonnies that can’t eventually be worked out.
And perhaps it’s a bit early to start overanalyzing the Bonnies although Virginia Commonwealth, winners of 10 straight, isn’t the type of team where one can begin working out kinks. The Bonnies (7-7, 0-1 Atlantic 10) host the Rams (13-3, 1-0) at 4 this afternoon at the Reilly Center.
VCU won its 10th consecutive game on Wednesday with a 74-62 victory over Dayton in its A-10 opener. With Xavier down, the Rams and fellow newcomer Butler are two of the favorites to claim the league’s regular season title. Meanwhile, the Bonnies hope for better days.
“If you look at the non-conference schedule and the record, I thought we are where we probably should be,” Schmidt said. “I wish we were going into conference play with a little more momentum.”
After dropping games to North Carolina State, Iona and Colorado State, St. Bonaventure on Wednesday lost its league opener 78-59 at George Washington, a team that struggles to score and which lost its previous game at Georgia, 52-41.
Two of Schmidt’s biggest concerns, defense and rebounding, haunted the Bonnies as the Colonials shot 65.5 percent in the first half. Bona trailed 46-32 by halftime and was outrebounded, 33-30.
“The last few games we haven’t defended and we haven’t rebounded and we need to get back to doing those two things well if we’re going to have a shot in this competitive league,” Schmidt said.
Becoming discouraged would be particularly premature because Bona was in a similar position a year ago. The Bonnies also opened against GW and won, 66-56, to move up to 8-5 on the season. On the flip side, they hadn’t lost four in a row since 2010.
“Our upperclassmen have to step up,” Schmidt said. “We have to do a better job at scoring and rebounding and playing as a team and for the most part, we’ve done that but I think we have to continue to do that. We have to play better at it as we go into conference play and do those things better than we did in the non-conference because we’re going to play better opponents.”
The Rams are one of those opponents. They reached No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll this week and will likely reach the Associated Press Top 25 with a win today. VCU coach Shaka Smart said there are similarities between this team and 2010-11 group that advanced to the Final Four.
“We play the same way as we played since we got here. Personnel obviously changes and we’re really perimeter oriented, still,” Smart said. “That Final Four team had a great inside player in Jamie Skeen. I think our guys, when we play with aggressiveness, when we have a level of discipline on the defensive end, we have a chance to be a really good team.”
The Bonnies must key on senior guard Troy Daniels, who has taken 153 of his 172 field-goal attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Last week against East Tennessee State, Daniels drilled 11 treys and finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds but had cooled off a bit the last two games by going 8 of 21 from long range in wins over Lehigh and Dayton. In the three previous games, the 6-foot-4 Daniels was 27 of 49 from three-point range for 55.1 percent.
St. Bonaventure will shadow Daniels with several defenders, starting with 6-3 junior Charlon Kloof.
“He’s always been a good threat for us from three-point range,” Smart said. “Teams have known that and if you look at his statistics, almost all the shots that he makes are from three. Just like we do in scouting, teams are going to say, ‘Make him into a two-point shooter. Let’s not help too much off of him.’ ”
Elsewhere in the Big 4, the University at Buffalo (5-10, 0-1 Mid-American Conference), which has dropped three of its last four, hosts East Division rival Miami of Ohio (5-8, 0-1) at 7 tonight at Alumni Arena.