OLEAN — The 2012 Atlantic 10 Tournament championship trophy, the one St. Bonaventure claimed on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City last March, was prominently displayed Saturday at the Reilly Center. It served as a trip down memory lane for the Bonnies, who often times played like the team that stunned everyone last year.
St. Bonaventure put together an all-embracing performance in the first half that was one of the better outputs of the season but Charlotte’s disruptive defensive pressure trapped on each possession in hopes of making the game more respectable. But the first-half chasm proved to be too much for Charlotte to overcome and St. Bonaventure continued its quest for a favorable seeding in next week’s conference tournament with a 104-83 victory in front of 3,760.
The Bonnies (14-13, 7-7) shot a season best 58.8 percent from the floor, fueled by 11-of-18 shooting from three-point range, including 9 of 12 in the first half. Bona built a 29-point halftime bulge on the 49ers (18-10, 6-8) while holding Charlotte to 6-of-24 shooting in the first 20 minutes. The 104 points ties the school record for the most in an A-10 game.
The second half wasn’t as leisurely for the Bonnies, who committed 22 turnovers while Charlotte had 15 steals that it converted into 24 points. Charlotte trimmed the lead to 18 points with 5:53 left and the Bonnies used their final timeout seconds later.
After the four-minute mark, a Jordan Gathers steal and dunk gave the Bonnies a 90-74 advantage.
“I thought the first half we couldn’t have played better both offensively and defensively,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “Shooting 62 percent, 75 percent from three, holding them to 25 percent, we did a good job on the backboard to get up by 29.”
The Bonnies are not lacking for momentum after winning their third consecutive game. Last year, the Bonnies won four of their last five games and entered A-10 Tournament play as one of the hottest teams in the conference.
With two games remaining – against Dayton and Fordham – in the regular season the Bonnies are currently in a three-way tie for eighth place along with Richmond and Saint Joseph’s and hold the ninth seed. Richmond lost at Dayton on Saturday while Saint Joseph’s won at home against Fordham. Are the stars aligning again over Olean?
“The first half was a good indication on how well we can play,” said Matthew Wright, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half while drilling 6 of 8 shots overall and 3 of 4 from long range. “Around this time last year we started to hit our peak and we know how crucial that is going into the A-10 Tournament and hopefully beyond so, yeah, I think we’re starting to hit our stride.”
St. Bonaventure was led in scoring by Eric Mosley, who was 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and finished with 23 points. Freshman Dion Wright came off the bench for a career-high 15 points, while Demitrius Conger added 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.
St. Bonaventure’s next game is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Dayton.