St. Bonaventure Men's Basketball Game Preview: Vermont
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St. Bonaventure returns to game action for the first time since Dec. 8 to face Vermont, a club picked to win the America East that has won five in a row. The Bonnies, who won three of their last four games prior to the break for semester exams, are making their first-ever trip to Vermont.
• Senior forward Courtney Stockard, who was named to the preseason All-Conference team,
returned after missing the first six games of the year and is averaging 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Stockard has made 59 percent of his shots from the field.
• Even with Stockard back, the Bonnies still played their last four games with only eight healthy scholarship players. LaDarien Griffin, Dominick Welch and Melkisedek Moreaux have all been out due to injuries. Griffin and Welch are both starters. The injuries have forced coach Mark Schmidt to use five different starting lineups so far.
• 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 his last five games, senior guard Nelson Kaputo averaged 14.2 points per game and went 16-23 (.695) from three-point range. He scored a career high 21 points in the win over Siena.
• The Bonnies stand third in the A-10 in field goal percentage defense (.402).
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.
• Off to an 8-3 start, Vermont's win over Northeastern on Sunday was its fifth in a row.
• Vermont's losses came at #2 Kansas, at Louisville and at home to Bucknell. The Catamounts earned wins over A-10 members George Mason and George Washington, both on the road.
• Rochester native Anthony Lamb, a 6-6 junior forward, leads Vermont in both scoring (20.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.2). Off to a torrid start, he has four games of 20-plus points including a 37-point game against Harvard on Dec. 8. Lamb also has blocked 23 shots.
• Vermont also features two capable perimeter players in Ernie Duncan (15.3 ppg) and Stef Smith (12.6). Both players are shooting over 42 percent from three-point range and account for 48 three-pointers between them.
• In coach John Becker's seven seasons, the Catamounts have won at least 20 games and advanced to postseason play every year. Vermont made the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and 2012, winning the America East tournament title both years.
This will be the third meeting between the teams and the second straight season they have met. It is St. Bonaventure's first-ever trip to Vermont. The Bonnies won both of the prior two meetings.
St. Bonaventure vs. Vermont: The Last Meeting
Dec. 16, 2017 at Blue Cross Arena: Bonnies 81, Catamounts 79
He had not made a single shot the whole game, but when it mattered most, Matt Mobley did not miss. Mobley's three-pointer from the right wing went through the Blue Cross Arena net as time expired. Payton Henson had put Vermont ahead 79-78 with 5.2 seconds left when he tipped in a missed shot. The drama capped an intense game between two top-100 teams, both who came into the day with seven wins already. The game featured 12 lead changes and eight ties.
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 has scored in double figures in all four of his games since returning, averaging 17.5 points to go along with 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists while making nearly 60 percent of his shots overall. Stockard really has picked up where he left off last year. Stockard's last six games of the 2017-18 campaign were unforgettable. He averaged 22 points and 7.5 rebounds over those six games, setting career highs in scoring twice. Stockard was instrumental in four wins, most notably with his 26 points against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. Over Stockard's 35 games in the lineup, the Bonnies are 27-8.
Kaputo Off To Solid Start To Senior Season
Call him a patient man. After three years in the shadows of All-Conference point guard Jaylen Adams, senior Nelson Kaputo has now 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 per game in a reserve role. This season, thanks to a recent hot streak, he is up to 10.4 points per game. Over the last five games, Kaputo averaged 14.2 points per game while going 16-23 (69 percent) from three-point range. He scored in double figures four of those games topped by a career high 21 points against Siena.
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 13.3 points per game with a team-leading 43 assists. 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. The Hillside, N.J., native had a year of prep school seasoning at Putnam Science Academy, where he ran the point for the national prep champions last year.
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 10 contests. He is second on the team and ninth in the A-10 in scoring at 15.5 points per game. 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 6.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game (26 blocks total). He leads the A-10 in blocks. Osunniyi's progress is significant, as he only started playing the game seriously as a sophomore at Mainland Regional High in Pleasantville, N.J., when he grew from 6'1' to 6'8".
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 nine times and leads the team in rebounding (5.8 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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