By JOHN ANDERSON and SCOTT EDDY (For more, visit gobonnies.com)
NEW YORK — The nation is watching as eight teams remain in the NCAA Tournament and the NIT Tournament for mens basketball.
Of the two final four’s, only one mid-major program remains — the St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
With team like Xavier, Texas A&M, Washington State, in the NIT and Villanova, Kansas, University of North Carolina and Duke in the NCAA, St. Bonaventure is the underdog to root for.
The Bonnies tip off at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Xavier, ranked No. 2 in the NIT tournament and the favorite on Tuesday. The Texas A&M Aggies are ranked No. 1 and the Cougars of Washington State are ranked No. 4.
The Bonnies were not ranked, and scored three incredible road upsets over “Power 5” teams, which are teams from the biggest conferences in the country.
The team left with a fire truck escort out of Olean and was greeted by fans upon arrival in Manhattan.
Here are more extensive game notes and videos to get you excited:
- St. Bonaventure advances to the NIT Final Four this week at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Bonnies will square off against Xavier Tuesday night in the semifinals. Game time is set for 7 p.m. with a live broadcast on ESPN. The winner advances to play in the championship game Thursday night vs. the winner of the other semifinal contest between Texas A&M and Washington State.
- Bona earned its spot in the semifinals of the NIT following three road wins at Power 5 opponents over the span of seven days: at Colorado, at Oklahoma and at Virginia.
- The Bonnies are one of five teams in the past decade to win three straight road games to reach the semifinals in Madison Square Garden, but just one traveled farther in the first three rounds to get there: Minnesota in 2012, which traveled 3,782 combined miles one way from its campus (at La Salle, at Miami, at Middle Tenn.) Bona’s trips were 3,195 miles combined one way, but in all, SBU traveled nearly 6,000 miles last week (Bona’s to Boulder, Co. and back, and then to Norman, Okla. and finally to Charlottesville, Va. and home after their third win of the week).
- St. Bonaventure is the only non-power conference program during that time to win three straight at P-6 opponents. The other NIT road warriors: (Lipscomb in 2019: at Davidson, at UNC-Greensboro, at NC State; Cal State Bakersfield in 2017: at California, at Colorado State, at UT-Arlington; UMass in 2012: at Mississippi State, at Seton Hall, at Drexel; Minnesota in 2012).
- SBU held on for a 52-51 win at Virginia last Tuesday. The Bonnies did not allow a UVA field goal over the final 2:58 and rallied from five points down with under two minutes to play. All five Bona starters scored either nine or 10 points and Kyle Lofton hit two free throws to put the Bonnies ahead with 5.3 seconds to play. Osun Osunniyi blocked a UVA shot at the buzzer to preserve the win.
- The Bonnies upset the top-seeded Sooners less than 48 hours prior to the win at UVA, led by senior Jaren Holmes who posted his fourth 20-point scoring effort of the season at OU with a team-high 23 points. That win came on the anniversary of the 1977 NIT Championship victory.
- St. Bonaventure captured a 76-68 win at Colorado in the NIT First Round. Jalen Adaway led all scorers with 17 points (7-13 FG) while Kyle Lofton matched a program NIT record with eight assists in addition to 15 points. Osun Osunniyi delivered his 21st career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds along with four blocks.
- For a complete recap on Bona’s road to Madison Square Garden and information on tickets, pre-game meet-ups, watch parties around the country and more, visit our NIT Central page.
ST. BONAVENTURE IN THE NIT
- St. Bonaventure makes its 17th appearance all-time in the NIT and first since 2016 when it was a No. 1 seed. The others were 1951-52, 1957-60, 1964, 1971, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1995, 1998 and 2001. St. Bonaventure won the NIT championship in 1977.
- The Bonnies are making their first trip to Madison Square Garden and playing in their NIT final four since Bona’s title win in 1977, the only national championship in school history. Bona has played in the NIT semifinals six times previously: 1952, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1971 and 1977.
- Prior to this year, St. Bonaventure had never won a true road game in the NIT (0-6). The Bonnies played a first round game vs. Rutgers at Princeton on the way to the 1977 championship but scored their first true road NIT triumph at Colorado in this year’s first round before backing that up with wins at Oklahoma and Virginia. St. Bonaventure is now 20-17 all-time in NIT games.
THE ROAD SO FAR
The NIT selection committee did St. Bonaventure no favors as the Bonnies have had far and away the most difficult journey to New York City of any team in town this week.
St. Bonaventure had just 50 hours’ notice between the reveal of the NIT bracket on Selection Sunday and their first round game at Colorado. Bona defeated their Pac-12 foe despite the cross country trek across two time zones and having to deal with the high altitude.
The reward for Bona’s first round win was another 1,200-mile trip west, this time to No. 1 seed Oklahoma. The Bonnies upset another Power 5 foe, taking down the Sooners on their home floor last Sunday night.
Finally, the Bonnies had one more roadblock in their way: a journey to Virginia for a quarterfinal matchup, less than 48 hours removed from their win at Oklahoma. Bona’s flew back across the country to Charlottesville, Va., Monday, March 21 in anticipation of a date with the Cavaliers.
By the time the quarterfinal game at Virginia tipped off, Bona had traveled 5,559 miles in the span of less than seven days. In the end, the travel, Power 5 opponents nor the long odds would matter as the Bonnies rallied back in the final 90 seconds to defeat the 2019 national champions on their home court and punch their ticket to the Big Apple.
Bona has won its past two games by a combined three points, offering memories of the 1977 title run when SBU won four games by a combined 11 points.
- The Bonnies are now 8-6 against Power 6 foes since 2017-18. St. Bonaventure has defeated three Power 6 teams to reach the semifinals and to win the title they would have to beat two more such foes as each of the other three teams in the final four are P6 squads (Xavier, Big East; Texas A&M, SEC; Washington State, Pac-12).
- With 23 wins on the season, the Bonnies have their winningest season since 2017-18 when they set the program record with 26 victories. Bona has reached the 20-win mark five times under head coach Mark Schmidt.
- Bona has won at least 18 games every year since 2013-14.
- During that nine-year span, the Bonnies have averaged nearly 20 victories per year.
- The Bonnies are making their 25th appearance overall in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament and fifth under head coach Mark Schmidt who guided the Bonnies to NCAA appearances in 2012, 2018 and 2021 in addition to the 2016 NIT bid. Last year, the Bonnies captured the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament championships.
- The Bonnies secured their seventh consecutive top-5 finish in the final A-10 regular season standings by finishing 12-5 this season.
- St. Bonaventure is the last remaining Atlantic 10 team in postseason competition. The A-10 sent six teams to either the NCAA or NIT tournaments this year: Davidson (NCAA), Richmond (NCAA), St. Bonaventure (NIT), Dayton (NIT), Saint Louis (NIT), VCU (NIT). Bona is trying to become the first A-10 team to win the NIT championship since George Washington in 2016.
- Counting postseason play, the Bonnies are 9-6 this season against teams to reach either the NCAA Tournament or NIT. During the regular season, Bona secured wins over NCAA Tournament entrants Boise State, Marquette and Richmond.
- Bona’s win over Oklahoma was its first over a top seed in the NIT.
- St. Bonaventure had never beaten two Power 6 teams back-to-back prior to last week and now has beaten a P6 foe in three straight games.
- The Bonnies are the only team in the NIT bracket this year to win three road games.
- All five Bonnies senior starters average double figures for the season and each has averaged at least 10 ppg during the NIT thus far as well.
- Senior Jaren Holmes is averaging a team-best 15.3 ppg in three NIT games. He has shot 48.5% from the floor (16-33) and 62.5% from distance (5-8) as well as 90% at the line (9-10). He posted his fourth 20-point scoring effort of the season with a team-high 23 points at Oklahoma. It was his first 20-point game since reaching that total in a win over Saint Joseph’s Jan. 29.
- He was a perfect 4-for-4 from distance at OU.
- Holmes reached 1,000 career points in the second half of the quarterfinal win at Virginia, joining the rest of the Bonnies starting five in the 1,000-point club. He becomes the 48th player in program history to reach that total in a Bonnies uniform.
- Senior Kyle Lofton posted his 90th career game of double-figure scoring with 10 points at Oklahoma.
- Lofton drew a foul and went to the line with Bona trailing by a point and 5.3 seconds to play at UVA. He drained both foul shots, erasing the memory of two misses inside 2 seconds to play in the A-10 quarterfinal one-point loss to Saint Louis 11 days prior.
- Lofton moved past Jaylen Adams, ’18, for third all-time in Bonaventure career assists in the win at Virginia. He enters Tuesday’s game with 593 career dimes.
- Senior Osun Osunniyi delivered double-doubles in each of the first two rounds of the NIT and is averaging 12.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg in the tourney.
- Osunniyi now has 22 career double-doubles.
- With four blocks at Virginia, he surpassed 300 for his career and moved to ninth in Atlantic 10 history.
- Senior Jalen Adaway scored double figures in 20 consecutive games prior to finishing with nine at UVA. He’s reached double digits in 39 of the last 42 contests.
- Adaway (11 points) and Lofton (10 points) each scored all of their points after halftime during the second round win at Oklahoma.
- Senior Dominick Welch is averaging 10.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg in the tournament with a double-double effort of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the quarterfinals at UVA.
- His 3-pointer with 21 seconds to play brought the Bonnies within one and was a highlight of their comeback at Virginia.
OSUNNIYI NAMED TO DEFENSIVE ALL-AMERICA TEAM
St. Bonaventure men’s basketball senior Osun Osunniyi has been named to the 2022 Lefty Driesell Defensive All-America Team, officials announced Thursday. He now is a finalist for the Lefty Driesell Award, which is presented annually to the top defensive player in Division I basketball, named in honor of the legendary former coach who won 786 games across his 41-year career.
Osunniyi is one of 30 players nationwide named to the All-America Team and one of two Atlantic 10 players, joining Jacob Gilyard of Richmond.
Each of St. Bonaventure’s five starters have scored 1,000 points for their careers with Jaren Holmes becoming the fifth current Bonnie to reach that total in the win at Virginia. All-time, the Bonnies have 48 1,000-point scorers.
St. Bonaventure is one of four teams nationally with at least five active 1,000-point scorers joining UAB (6), Florida (5) and Notre Dame (5). Only St. Bonaventure and Notre Dame have five 1,000-point scorers including four players who reached that total all at one school. Only Jalen Adaway, who started his career with two seasons at Miami (OH) has not scored all 1,000+ points in a Bona uniform (742 with St. Bonaventure).
SERIES HISTORY VS. XAVIER
Xavier leads, 25-16
The Bonnies and Musketeers are meeting for the first time since Xavier left the Atlantic 10 following the 2012-13 season. Prior to that, the two schools were longtime A-10 rivals.
St. Bonaventure owned much of the early years of a series that dates back to 1955. After Xavier won the first three games, including a 1958 NIT semifinal game in Madison Square Garden, the two schools met often during the 1960s and 1970s.
Bona won 11 of 15 meetings between the schools between 1960-74, but Xavier won 12 of the final 13 A-10 contests.
The outlier was a big one: St. Bonaventure defeated Xavier, 67-56, in the 2012 Atlantic 10 Championship Game held in Atlantic City to earn the first A-10 title in program history.
Xavier escaped with a 66-64 win at St. Bonaventure the following season and the programs have not met since.
Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt served as an assistant on the staff of the late Skip Prosser at Xavier from 1994-2001. During that time he helped lead XU to a pair of A-10 regular season titles and the conference tournament championship in 1998. In 1999, the Musketeers advanced to the NIT final four in what Schmidt described to his team this year as “one of the greatest experiences of his life” when talking to this year’s seniors about accepting an NIT bid.
The Bonnies are 1-0 vs. the Big East this year after defeating Marquette, 70-54, in November at the Charleston Classic.
Should St. Bonaventure reach the Championship Game, it would be facing either Texas A&M or Washington State for the first time in program history.
BONNIES IN “THE MECCA OF BASKETBALL”
St. Bonaventure has a storied history of playing in the Mecca of Basketball, Madison Square Garden.
The Bonnies are 15-10 all-time in NIT games held at MSG dating to 1951. Tuesday’s semifinal will be the first NIT appearance in the Garden, however, since their championship win in 1977.
Since the current building’s opening in 1968, Bona’s greatest moment came in December 1969 with a championship in the Garden Holiday Festival tournament. SBU won the title with a 91-75 triumph over Purdue, thanks to 50 points from Bob Lanier.
Since 1968, the Bonnies are 9-6 at Madison Square Garden, but have not played there since a loss vs. Fordham in 1999.
5-2 – St. Bonaventure is 5-2 against Power 6 teams this season – the Bonnies defeated Marquette and Clemson in November’s Charleston Classic before battling UConn to the wire in December and falling to Virginia Tech in the non-conference finale.
3 – Osun Osunniyi has three or more blocks in 59 career games. With three blocks in the regular season finale vs. Richmond, Osunniyi broke the school record for career swats with 290, breaking a mark which had stood for 22 years.
8 –Kyle Lofton tied a Bonnies NIT single-game record with eight assists in the first round at Colorado, matching Shandue McNeill (1995 vs. Southern Miss) and Jim Baron (1977 vs. Villanova).
8.7 – Bona has averaged just 8.7 turnovers per game in three NIT wins.
9 –Dominick Welch has a team-high nine 3-pointers during the NIT. In 11 career postseason games (A-10 Tournament, NCAA Tournament, NIT), Welch has made at least one three in every contest including multiple treys in nine of those games (2.9 per game on average).
10-2 – The Bonnies opened their first two games of the NIT – at Colorado and at Oklahoma – with 10-2 runs.
12-0 – St. Bonaventure has not been noted for hot starts to games this year, but when it has started well, wins have generally followed: the Bonnies are 12-0 when leading at the half.
20 –Jalen Adaway had scored in double figures in 20 consecutive games prior to finishing with nine in the quarterfinals at Virginia.
141 – St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt owns 141 A-10 wins, recently breaking a tie with former Bonnies and Rhode Island coach Jim Baron for fifth in A-10 history. In addition to his coaching career, Baron helped key Bona’s 1977 NIT championship as that team’s point guard.
350 – Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt scored his 350th career win in the NIT quarterfinals at Virginia.
900 – Osun Osunniyi needs five more rebounds to become the fourth player in program history with 900 career boards.
4,300 – Kyle Lofton surpassed 4,000 minutes played for his career during the Feb. 16 over UMass. At over 4,300 minutes now played for his career, that is equivalent to nearly three days.
11,000 – Bona’s three seniors who have played their entire four-year careers together – Lofton, Osunniyi and Welch – have combined to play over 11,000 minutes with each other in Bonnies uniforms.
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