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Top 20 Test: Bonnies Host 17th-Ranked Buffalo Saturday

Top 20 Test: Bonnies Host 17th-Ranked Buffalo Saturday

St. Bonaventure Men's Basketball Game Preview: Buffalo Bulls

Game Date: Saturday, Dec. 8
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Reilly Center

Records:

St. Bonaventure 4-5   |    Buffalo 8-0
Bonnies Stats        |           UB Stats

Video: ESPN+ with Ben Wagner and Joe Ceraulo
Radio: WPIG 95.7 FM with Gary Nease and Don Scholla
Twitter: @BonniesMBB

Full Media Game Notes (PDF)


OPENING TIP

An improving St. Bonaventure squad takes on its biggest challenge of the season to date when it hosts undefeated, 17th-ranked Buffalo Saturday in the Reilly Center. The Bonnies, who have won three in a row, will put their relatively inexperienced group to the test against the veteran Bulls. The game is SOLD OUT.

BONA-NOTEWORTHY
• St. Bonaventure has won its last five games against ranked opponents including three straight at the Reilly Center dating to 2014. The Bonnies are 4-1 at home this year.
• Senior forward Courtney Stockard, who was named to the preseason All-Conference team, returned after missing the first six games and is averaging 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game.
• Stockard's return undoubtedly infused his teammates with confidence, most notably freshmen Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi. Lofton leads the Bonnies in assists and steals and is third in scoring, while Osunniyi leads the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots and is third on the team in rebounding.
• Over the last four games, senior guard Nelson Kaputo averaged 15.7 points per game and went 14-19 (.736) from three-point range. He scored a career high 21 points in the win over Siena.
• Even with Stockard back, the Bonnies still only have eight healthy scholarship players. LaDarien Griffin, Dominick Welch and Melkisedek Moreaux are all out indefinitely due to injuries. Griffin and Welch are both starters. The injuries have forced Bona to use five different starting lineups so far.

Series History
This will be the 13th meeting between the teams and the ninth straight season they have met. The Bonnies have won the past four meetings and nine of the last 10 and hold a 10-2 lead in the all-time series. St. Bonaventure is 6-0 against UB at the Reilly Center.

St. Bonaventure vs. Buffalo: The Last Meeting
Dec. 2, 2017 at Alumni Arena: Bonnies 73, Bulls 62
Jaylen Adams' return from injury was the most welcome news, but defense was the reason that St. Bonaventure won again. The Bonnies held Buffalo without a field goal for eight minutes and off the scoreboard completely for almost four minutes down the stretch, pulling away for the win. Matt Mobley turned in his fourth 20-point performance of the young seaon, leading all scorers with 25 points while Courtney Stockard added 13 points and nine rebounds. The Bonnies spread the wealth as eight different players scored, perhaps highlighted by the return of Adams. The preseason All-America candidate made his first appearance of the year after missing the first six games with an injury, registering nine points.

Buffalo Notes:
Off to an 8-0 start, UB is ranked 17th in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and 18th in the ESPN Coaches Poll. The Bulls have beaten West Virginia and Southern Illinois on the road as well as Milwaukee and San Francisco in Ireland. They are averaging an eye-opening 87 points per game and have only been held below 76 points once. A veteran group, Buffalo starts three seniors and has significant depth. Point guard C.J. Massinburg leads four players in double figures at 18 points per game while shooting 50 percent from three-point range. Senior forward Nick Perkins averages 14 points and 8.0 rebounds coming off the bench. 

Five Straight Wins Vs. Ranked Teams
The Bonnies have won their last five games against ranked opponents dating to 2014:
Opponent                Date        Ranks         Site      Score
UMass            1/29/14           21/19          H        78-65
St. Louis         3/14/14           18/17          N        71-68
VCU                 2/7/15            18/18         H        73-71
Dayton            2/20/16           13/15          A        79-72
Rhode Island   2/16/18           14/16            H        77-74
The Bonnies' last loss against a ranked team was Jan. 15, 2014 at Saint Louis. Over Mark Schmidt's 11 years as St. Bonaventure's coach, the Bonnies are 5-12 against ranked teams including a mark of 3-3 at the Reilly Center. All-time, St. Bonaventure is 14-59 against top 25 teams, with 11 of those wins (in 36 games total) coming at the Reilly Center. 

Stockard Returns And Picks Up Where He Left Off
Senior Courtney Stockard has endured much more than his fair share of setbacks since he got to St. Bonaventure. The St. Louis, Mo., native missed back-to-back seasons in 2015-16 and 2016-17 with a broken foot. After a breakout season last year in which he averaged 13.3 points, Stockard then had to undergo an offseason knee procedure which caused him to miss the first six games this season. Stockard finally returned to action Nov. 28 against Canisius and showed little rust, scoring a game-high 19 points with seven rebounds and three assists. He added 16 points and six assists vs. Delaware State and 17 against Siena, playing similar to the way he ended last year. Stockard's last six games of the 2017-18 campaign were unforgettable. He set career highs in scoring twice and was instrumental in four wins, most notably with his 26 points against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. 

Kaputo Gets Hot At Right Time
Call him a patient man. After three years in the shadows of All-Conference point guard Jaylen Adams, senior Nelson Kaputo has earned a more significant role in his final season. Kaputo played in 84 games over his first three seasons but averaged just 12 minutes per game. Last season, Kaputo averaged 3.3 points and 1.1 assists per game in a reserve role. This season, thanks to a recent hot streak, he is up to 10.7 points per game. Over the last four games, Kaputo averaged 15.7 points per game while going 14-19 (73 percent) from three-point range. He scored in double figures in all four games topped by a career high 21 points against Siena, when he made five of six shots from three-point range. 

Freshman Lofton Impresses
Freshman Kyle Lofton has taken on the point guard role from day one this season, filling the large shoes of Jaylen Adams. Lofton has shown he is up to the task, averaging 13 points per game with a team-leading 37 assists and 11 steals. He ranks 21st in the A-10 in scoring and eighth in assists. In a win over Canisius Nov. 28, Lofton scored 13 points and handed out nine assists without any turnovers. Lofton also was impressive in the Cayman Islands Classic, averaging 15.3 points per game while playing 112 of a possible 120 minutes over three games.

Poyser Starts Bona Career Strong
Junior guard Jalen Poyser, who sat out last season after transferring from UNLV, has already proven to be ready to take on a leadership role. A top-100 recruit coming out of high school at Orangeville Prep in Toronto, Poyser averaged 10.4 points per game as a sophomore at UNLV. He has begun his St. Bonaventure career with five 20-plus point games in the first nine contests. He is second on the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game on 42 percent shooting overall. Poyser was named to the Cayman Islands Classic All-Tournament team after he averaged 16.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game over three games. He tied his career high with 23 points against Georgia State. 

Double-O Starting To Catch On
Freshman center Osun Osunniyi, who coach Mark Schmidt describes as "oozing with potential", is continuing to develop every practice and every game. He flashed some of that potential on Nov. 28 in a win over Canisius with 12 points and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double. For the year, he is averaging 6.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocked shots per game (24 blocks total). He leads the A-10 in blocks. 

Ngalakulondi Moves Into Starting Lineup
Like many St. Bonaventure players, Tshiefu Ngalakulondi saw limited action last year as a freshman. He played in 18 games and averaged 2.3 points per contest. This season, with a year of experience, Ngalakulondi is taking on a much larger role. The 6-7 forward has started eight times and leads the team in rebounding (6.1 rpg). He also has recorded the first two double-doubles of his career, most recently 11 points and 12 rebounds against Akron. Ngalakulondi had a career high 14 rebounds at Niagara.

Freshmen Make Early Impact
Of the six new players on the Bonnies' roster this season, four are freshmen: guards Kyle Lofton, Alpha Okoli and Dominick Welch and center Osun Osunniyi. All four have already earned significant playing time. Lofton has started every game, Welch has started four times (he is now out indefinitely with a foot injury) and is averaging 7.0 points per game, Okoli has started three times and Osunniyi once. Lofton and Osunniyi were teammates on Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy's 2017-18 national prep champion team.

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