Bona Battles To Victory Over Cornell In Front Of National Audience
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ITHACA, N.Y. – After surrendering a 14-point second-half lead, the St. Bonaventure men's basketball team – behind a game-high 19 points from Chris Johnson – battled to a 72-68 win Wednesday evening at Cornell in front of a national TV audience on the NBC Sports Network.
Johnson tied a career high in scoring, but more importantly saved the Bonnies (2-0) from the free-throw line as hit all seven of his attempts while the rest of the team went 19-35. The win moved Bona to 2-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season, and only the second time since the 2003-04 campaign.
Plagued with foul trouble throughout much of the night, senior Demitrius Conger scored 14 vital second-half points after playing just eight minutes in the first half and not scoring as he picked up his second foul at the 11:54 mark.
With Bonaventure holding a 59-56 lead with just more than four minutes remaining, Conger elevated and hit a baseline jumper to push the lead to five and then delivered what looked like a game-deciding 3-pointer on SBU's next trip, prompting a Cornell timeout.
However, the Big Red – who have now lost three straight to the Brown and White – answered with an extended 11-5 run to pull within two, 69-67, with 23 seconds left. After the Bonnies committed a five-second violation on the ensuing inbounds play to give the ball back to the Big Red, Cornell's Devin Cherry missed the first of two free throws which would have tied the contest.
Junior Charlon Kloof extended the Bona cushion to three with a pair of crucial free throws with 14 seconds left, and then put the game out of reach by hitting one-of-two with under a second remaining.
Marquise Simmons provided valuable scoring for Bonaventure, particularly in the first half, as he didn't miss a shot en route to recording 11 points to help guide Bona to a 35-24 intermission lead. The Washington, D.C., native finished with 14 points and six rebounds one year removed from tearing his Achilles against Cornell.
Bonaventure struggled throughout the night from the 3-point and free-throw line as it went just 2-14 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc and 26-42 (61.9 percent) from the charity stripe. However, the Bonnies were able to make up for it by outscoring Cornell in the paint, 36-26, and holding a 17-10 advantage in second-chance points. Last year, SBU finished 16th in the nation in free-throw shooting at 76.1 percent.
In the last three years, SBU has now dominated Cornell in the paint by 40 points, 90-50, and outscored the Big Red in second-chance opportunities, 40-20.
Senior Eric Mosley and Conger both picked up their second fouls on consecutive Bona possessions – defensive and then offensive, respectively – near the 12-minute mark of the first half and sat the remainder of the frame. Mosley, who led Bona on the offensive end in the season opener with 14 points, did not score against Cornell.
To make up for it, sophomore center Youssou Ndoye – who twice left the game with injuries – scored eight points, Matthew Wright added seven and a game-high five assists, Kloof netted six – three in the final 14 seconds – and Dion Wright added four – both buckets coming in the first half.
D. Wright came off the bench to play 12 first-half minutes and collected five of what ended up being a team-high seven rebounds during those dozen minutes. The California native ended the night with 16 minutes of action in his first collegiate road game.
After maintaining that 11-point halftime advantage, Bonaventure stretched the lead to 14, 38-24, after M. Wright hit SBU's first 3-pointer of the game at the 18:28 mark. However, Cornell then went on a 15-3 run over the next six minutes to pull within two, 41-39, before eventually tying the game, 52-52, on a pair of free throws with eight minutes left.
Cornell placed four scorers in double figures, led by 17 from Errick Peck who fouled out with 4:10 left on Conger's baseline jumper. Cherry added 14, and Jonathan Gray and Galal Cancer each tallied 11 for the Big Red, who dropped to 1-1 on the season.
St. Bonaventure returns to action on Saturday in a Little Three battle against Canisius in Buffalo. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. from the Koessler Center.
GAME NOTES: Cornell still leads the overall series – which dates back to 1923 – 8-6 … Conger made his 65th straight start … the attendance was listed at 3,016 … both teams only turned the ball over 14 times … after shooting 4-7 from 3-point range in the first half, Cornell went just 1-7 in the second half … Shonn Miller pulled down a game-high eight rebounds.