OLEAN — The Reilly Center might be the most inhospitable setting for visiting teams, especially for one attempting to make free throws near the flamboyant student section.
But apparently, little rattles Dayton’s Devin Oliver – not even an English major or two yelling in his ear – as he calmly sank four free throws in the final 12.6 seconds Saturday. It was Oliver, and St. Bonaventure’s inability to close out the Flyers, who left the gym with a 72-69 victory, that allowed another winnable game to slip through the Bonnies’ fingers.
Holding a five-point lead with 4:40 remaining, St. Bonaventure (13-10, 3-6 Atlantic 10) managed to score only one field goal the remainder of the game while Youssou Ndoye missed two front ends of a 1-and-1 in the final minutes that could have helped seal it.
Meanwhile, Dayton’s Matt Kavanaugh gave the Flyers (16-8, 4-5) the lead for good with a put back while Vee Sanford’s jumper pushed their lead to four points with 1:12 left. But when the Bonnies couldn’t track down a miss by Jordan Sibert, Oliver came up with the rebound – one of 20 offensive boards by the Flyers – and thus began his march to the free-throw line.
The Bonnies are now 9-2 at the RC this season and the only reprieve is that the next two road games – Fordham and George Mason – are the bottom two teams in the conference. Then again, it’s hard for most teams to win on the road in the A-10, especially for the Bonnies, who are 2-7 away from home.
“It’s disappointing that it ended the way that it did,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “Hopefully we can learn from it and get that rebound and make that additional play. In the Atlantic 10 it’s always going to come down to one or two possessions.”
The Bonnies, 5-5 in their last 10 games, had a shot to send it into overtime down three points with 7.7 seconds left. Charlon Kloof dribbled into the backcourt and Khari Price made contact and slapped the ball away. Kloof managed to regain possession but his shot, which was off, was well after the buzzer. Kloof turned to an official wondering why a foul wasn’t called while Price was hugging Dayton coach Archie Miller in celebration.
“Charlon thought he got fouled but that’s the game,” Schmidt said. “We needed a three and he got it off late. They did a good job at guarding.”
Up three in the final seconds, Miller’s philosophy is to foul.
“I think he flubbed the ball maybe trying to attempt the shot while there was a foul,” Miller said. “We were fortunate, obviously, but we didn’t want to get beat by a three-point shot.”
What’s even more frustrating is the Bonnies outplayed the Flyers for most of the game. They held one of the league’s top offensive teams to 36.7 percent from the floor in the first half when the game was tied at 30. They couldn’t stop Ndoye inside as the junior was a perfect 6 for 6 from the floor for 17 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
But they couldn’t close out Richmond in their last game, a 64-62 loss, and the Spiders were without two senior starters. The stunning upset against Massachusetts on Jan. 29 came on the heels of a crushing 83-81 loss at Duquesne on Jan. 25. Saturday was another in a disturbing trend.
“It’s always hard when you lose like that and this isn’t the first time it’s happened,” Ndoye said. “It happened last game, it happened the Duquesne game and it gets tiring to lose this way. We need to get better, we need to practice tomorrow and get better.”
The Bonnies led 64-62 when Oliver tied the game with a jumper and after Jordan Gathers missed a driving layup, Ndoye missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Kavanaugh’s stick back gave the Flyers the lead for good with 2:03 left.
Ndoye missed another 1-and-1 and Sanford rose high over the Bonnies defense to stick a jumper with 1:12 remaining. Kloof, standing in the corner, canned a trey with 53 seconds left to make it 68-67 Dayton.
Then came the biggest possession of the game. Sanford’s layup attempt was rejected by Ndoye. There was a scramble for the rebound but Dayton covered it and called timeout. Then Sibert’s missed trey with just three ticks on the shot clock was rebounded by Oliver. Oliver hit two free throws with 12.6 seconds left and after Kloof made two with 9.4 seconds remaining, Oliver drained two more with 7.7 seconds left.
“Those are the money balls right there,” Miller said.