Conger Powers Bonnies Into A-10 Championship Final
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Junior forward Demitrius Conger tallied 22 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high eight assists to power St. Bonaventure (19-11) in the finals of the Atlantic 10 Championship with an 84-80 win over Massachusetts (22-11) at Boardwalk Hall.
The Bonnies advance to their first showing in the finals since 2000 and will battle No.3 seed Xavier for an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Game time is slated for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally by CBS with Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery on the call.
St. Bonaventure, now a win away from its first NCAA appearance since 2000, led by as many as 16 in the second half and held on as UMass mounted a rally.
Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson finished with 19 points on 5-of-7 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers and a perfect 7-of-7 from the line. He sat the last 9:33 of the first half, but notched 11 points and three of his four blocks in the final 20 minutes to help SBU build a commanding 72-56 margin with 7:29 to play.
The Bonnies would record just one field goal for the rest of the game, as UMass scored 19 of the game's next 21 points, similar to the last time the teams met. In that game UMass used a 17-2 spurt to take control, but this time the Bonnies hung on to advance.
Raphiel Putney's steal of an inbounds pass and subsequent layin capped the Minutemen rally with the margin down to just two, 75-77, with 1:38 left.
With Bona up three, 81-78, UMass point guard Chaz Williams intercepted a pass and was fouled on a layup attempt. After making both free throws and cutting the margin to one, Kloof made one free throw to give SBU a two-point edge with 14 ticks left.
Putney's 3-pointer was off the mark in the dying seconds and Matthew Wright secured the rebound and iced the game from the line.
Chris Johnson poured in 14 points and Kloof 10 to go with four assists for SBU, which posted 10 assists and turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Jordan Gathers added nine in an all-around effort.
NOTES: Nicholson has scored at least 19 points in 10 straight games ... Conger booked his eighth career double-double and fourth this season ... St. Bonaventure is shooting 52.4% (55-105) in the 2011 Atlantic 10 Championship, the ninth best shooting percentage for a team in a championship tournamentThe 19 wins are the most for a Bonnies team since the 1999-2000 team went 21-10 ... St. Bonaventure and Massachusetts met for the fourth time at the Atlantic 10 Championships, with the Bonnies snapping a three-game Minutemen winning streak with the win ... The number four seed is now 3-0 in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Championship since the conference changed the format in 2005-06.