Game Preview: George Mason
TV: NBC Sports Network (Kevin Lee and Ron Thompson)
Radio: WPIG 95.7 FM with Gary Nease
Full Media Game Notes (PDF)
The term "second season" is apt for St. Bonaventure as it begins Atlantic 10 Conference play with a Sunday afternoon road game at George Mason. The Bonnies now have the chance to start fresh after an injury-riddled non-conference slate. The Patriots, who have won three of their last four games, topped Saint Joseph's on the road Thursday by 25 points.
• 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 16.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Stockard has made 48 percent of his shots from the field.
• A young team, the Bonnies have also been injury-riddled. All told, players have missed 35 games: LaDarien Griffin (10 games), Melkisedek Moreaux (10), Stockard (six) and Dominick Welch (nine). The injuries have forced coach Mark Schmidt to use six different starting lineups. Griffin returned to the lineup on Dec. 21 at Northeastern.
• Freshmen Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi have impressed despite their inexperience. Lofton, who has started every game at point guard, leads the Bonnies in assists and steals and is third in scoring, while Osunniyi leads the Atlantic 10 in blocks and is second on the team in rebounding.
• Senior guard Nelson Kaputo, who scored a career-high 21 points at George Mason last year, ranks third in the A-10 in three-point field goal percentage (.447).
St. Bonaventure vs. George Mason: The Last Meeting
Jan. 31, 2018 at Eagle Bank Arena: Bonnies 85, Patriots 69
Matt Mobley scored 35 points and Nelson Kaputo added 20, both setting career highs, to lead St. Bonaventure. Mobley and Kaputo led the Bonnies' attack with 13 three-pointers between them. Mobley was 7-9 from long range while Kaputo was 6-9. After a slow start to the first half, Mobley sparked the Bonnies. He wound up making five of six field goal attempts from three-point range, scoring 21 points in the first half. Kaputo came off the bench to provide a second spark, as he made his first three shots from behind the arc. The junior guard was 4-6 from long range for 12 first half points to go along with three assists. Thanks mainly to that duo, St. Bonaventure jumped out to a 49-33 lead by halftime.
The Bonnies extended their edge to 20 points four minutes into the second half, but George Mason climbed back, eventually pulling within 68-60 on a three-pointer by Jaire Grayer at the 8:21 mark. Following Grayer's score, though, Mobley drained his sixth three-pointer of the game to stop the Patriots' run. Jaylen Adams scored on a drive and Mobley followed with another three-pointer that gave the Bonnies breathing room at 76-60 with 4:54 left. Mobley also grabbed 11 rebounds for his fifth career double-double.
• The Patriots went on the road Thursday and handily defeated Saint Joseph's, 85-60. George Mason pulled away by shooting 8-12 from three-point range in the second half. Junior guard Justin Kier led the Patriots with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
• Shooting is the team's strength, as Mason now is converting 46 percent of its field goal attempts including a solid 35 percent from three-point range. Six players have made at least 10 three-pointers led by Otis Livingston (17), who is tied for the team scoring lead with Kier at 13.9 points per game. Kier, who is a 41 percent shooter from long range, also tops the club in rebounding (5.5 per game).
• Senior guard Jaire Grayer, one of Mason's top players, has missed the past seven games due to a foot injury.
This will be the ninth meeting in the series that St. Bonaventure leads 6-2. The Bonnies have won all five meetings since George Mason joined the A-10.
Injuries Marr Season
A young team with just five scholarship players back from last season, the Bonnies have had the additional dilemma of multiple early-season injuries. Players have missed 35 games already due to injuries: LaDarien Griffin (10 games), Melkisedek Moreaux (10), Dominick Welch (nine) and Courtney Stockard (six). The injuries have forced coach Mark Schmidt to use six different starting lineups. Griffin was out from Nov. 8 until Dec. 21 due to a sprained knee; Stockard was out the first six games due to offseason knee surgery; Welch has been out since the Nov. 19 Georgia State game due to a bruised right foot, and Moreaux missed the first 10 games due to a hyperextended knee he sustained in preseason practice. In the second and third games of the Cayman Islands Classic, the Bonnies were only able to dress seven scholarship players.
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. He has scored in double figures in six of his seven games since returning, averaging 16.6 points to go along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists while making nearly 50 percent of his shots overall. Stockard really has picked up where he left off last year, as his last six games of 2017-18 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 38 games in the lineup, the Bonnies are 27-11.
Griffin Returns After 10 Games Out
St. Bonaventure also had to play without another one of its senior leaders for a long stretch this season as senior forward LaDarien Griffin was sidelined 10 games by a sprained knee. He suffered the injury in the Nov. 7 season opener against Bucknell. Griffin, who was named the Atlantic 10's Most Improved Player in 2017-18, returned to action Dec. 21 at Northeastern, logging 30 minutes and recording three points, one rebound and two steals in 26 minutes. He started at Syracuse and had five points and three rebounds. Griffin averaged 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a junior.
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 13.8 points per game with a team-leading 51 assists. He ranks 16th in the A-10 in scoring and eighth in assists. Lofton scored a season best 23 points in a double-OT loss at Vermont, including a clutch drive that forced the second overtime period. 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 seasoning at Putnam Science Academy, where he ran the point for the national prep champions last year.
Kaputo Off To Solid Start To Senior Season
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, he is up to 8.8 points per game while connecting on 44 percent of his three-point shots. Over the last eight games, Kaputo was 18-30 (60 percent) from three-point range. He scored in double figures four of those games topped by a career high 21 points against Siena. Kaputo ranks third in the A-10 in three-point percentage.
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 13 contests. He is second on the team and 14th in the A-10 in scoring at 14.2 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. Poyser also leads the A-10 in minutes played at 37.2 per game, playing
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 6.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots per game (34 blocks total). Even while averaging just 23 minutes per game, he leads the A-10 and ranks 12th nationally in blocks. The school's freshman record for blocks in a season is 81 by Andrew Nicholson in 2008-09. Osunniyi's progress is significant, as he only started playing seriously as a sophomore at Mainland Regional High in Pleasantville, N.J., when he grew from 6'1' to 6'8".
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