OLEAN — Charlon Kloof drove hard to the basket and found Matthew Wright behind the three-point arc on the right wing. He was given an empty look for second, a no-no even when he’s having an off night. After draining the shot, the senior guard turned to the St. Bonaventure student section and raised his hands in triumph. There were just 52 seconds left on the clock, it was nail-hammering time and Wright knew it.
“I was just relieved we finally got the monkey off our back,” he said.
There would be no rallies this time for Massachusetts. No desperation three-point buzzer-beaters, either. That 24-game losing streak against ranked opponents is history, too. St. Bonaventure captured the biggest regular season win in the Mark Schmidt era on Wednesday by upsetting No. 21 UMass, 78-65, in front of 3,881 at the Reilly Center.
The Bonnies (13-8, 3-4 Atlantic 10) were facing their third ranked opponent in a six-game span and had previously fallen to the Minutemen on Jan. 11 and Saint Louis on Jan. 15. St. Bonaventure’s last win over a ranked team was over No. 20 Temple, 57-56, at the Reilly Center on Jan. 15, 2000.
“I told them this would be the only team this year that would come in here ranked and it was a tremendous opportunity. You want to keep on fighting, you don’t want to lose because you didn’t give great effort,” Schmidt said. “If we lost, we were going to leave it on the court, and it was something that they realized and something that they will remember for the rest of their lives. They had the opportunity and they cashed in.”
This was a huge bounce-back game for the Bonnies, who had dropped four of their last five, including Saturday’s heartbreaking, 83-81 loss against Duquesne on Derrick Colter’s three-pointer just before the horn. In their first meeting, UMass roared back from a 13-point deficit to win, 73-68. Before Wednesday’s game Schmidt put 1:13 on the board in the locker room.
“That was the amount of time we had left at UMass, that we led for 38 minutes and 47 seconds,” Schmidt said. “I told the guys we were good enough to beat these guys for 38 minutes and 47 seconds and all we had to do was find 1:13.”
This time, they won in convincing fashion thanks to balanced scoring led by Kloof’s 14 points while Youssou Ndoye and Dion Wright off the bench had 12 points each. Matthew Wright finished with 11 and Marquise Simmons 10 along with nine boards. There was also the play of unsung reserve freshman Denzel Gregg, who finished with eight points.
“We proved that when we play 40 minutes that we can beat anybody,” Simmons said. “We know we shouldn’t have lost at Duquesne, and we should have won at UMass the first time.…That stuck with us and that was added motivation for the game.”
But this game will be remembered for the defensive effort on UMass leading scorer Chaz Williams, the pulse of the Minutemen (17-3, 4-2). There were few times when Kloof allowed the cat-quick 5-foot-9 Williams to slip by him and he was covered like a cornerback. With few areas of space in which to operate, Williams forced up many of his 10 shots – he hit only three – and committed four turnovers to finish with 11 points before fouling out.
The Bonnies also outrebounded the Minutemen, 45-35, including 20-14 on the offensive glass. The offensive rebounds were critical to the win because they negated UMass’ ability to get the ball to Williams and run the floor for layups.
“St. Bonaventure played really well and really beat us up on the boards in the second half,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said. “They got a lot of second chance putbacks. We had the game flowing there for a little while.”
But when Andell Cumberbatch banked in a three-pointer with 7:21 left in the game and a tick left on the shot clock, it proved to be the momentum shift St. Bonaventure needed. That pushed the Bonnies’ lead to 58-54 and Cumberbatch followed with two free throws, and when he fired from long range and missed Dion Wright was there for the tip-in. Dion Wright hit a jumper and Bona led by 10.
UMass’ Trey Davis, who scored a game-high 18 points off the bench, pulled the Minutemen within six at 69-63 just before Wright delivered the dagger.
“I was more relieved,” Wright said. “I missed my other three shots and a few of them I felt like rattled in and out. I knew with the law of percentages one of them has to go in eventually.”