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Youth Is Served: Bonnies Freshmen Spark Win Over Rutgers in Toronto, 80-74

Box Score (PDF)

TORONTO – Entering the season, much of the talk around the St. Bonaventure basketball program was of the Bonnies' extremely talented sophomore class.

Saturday night vs. Rutgers at Scotiabank Arena, the sophomores got a big assist from their freshman teammates in an 80-74 victory as part of the James Naismith Classic.

Despite playing without star sophomore Osun Osunniyi for the third consecutive game, the Bonnies received 67 points from their underclassmen. At the head of the charge were a pair of freshmen: Alejandro Vasquez poured home a game-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor while Justin Winston made his first start a memorable one, finishing with 19 points while connecting on six of his 11 attempts as well as four of his five tries from beyond the arc.

Kyle Lofton delivered 17 points as well as eight assists and Dominick Welch chipped in 11 points.

Rutgers led from the opening tip, but the Bonnies quickly rallied with a 7-0 break for their first lead of the night and would pull ahead by a 18-9 mark on the power of 11 combined points from Vasquez and Winston in the first seven and a half minutes. 

It was a hot start for the Brown and White, which grew its lead to 25-13 at the 7:43 mark of the half.

That momentum would only grow as the duo of Vasquez and Winston brought the Bonnies fans who made the trip across the border to their feet. St. Bonaventure shot a scorching 59 percent from the floor including 6-for-11 from deep, leading by as much as 19 before settling for a 43-30 advantage at halftime – 24 of those points coming from the freshman duo.

Bona still led by double digits heading for the home stretch, but Rutgers would mount a final charge.

Foul trouble started to plague the Bonnies in the final nine minutes. Bobby Planutis and Amadi Ikpeze each picked up their fourth foul.

The Scarlet Knights (3-1) pulled within 73-68 with under two minutes to play before Welch squelched the rally effort with a huge offensive rebound and put-back as 1:27 showed on the clock.

Rutgers would never get any closer.

The Bonnies (1-3) were able to shake the shooting woes that had followed them in the opening week of the season, connecting on 49 percent of their attempts for the game and sinking 11 3-pointers.

Caleb McConnell paced Rutgers with 13 points while Myles Johnson posted 12 points. St. Bonaventure limited Rutgers leading scorer Geo Baker to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

GAME NOTES

  • Vasquez was named the Naismith Classic Player of the Game.
  • For the first time this season the Bonnies started a pair of freshmen. The new starting five consisted of Kyle Lofton, Dominick Welch, Alejandro Vasquez, Amadi Ikpeze and Justin Winston.
  • Winston earned his first career start after scoring 10 points in each of the past two games. He surpassed that previous career high in the first half alone with 11 points in the first 20 minutes.
  • The Bonnies played their first-ever game in Canada, though the program has a long history of players hailing from north of the border.
  • Saturday's Naismith Classic featured a tripleheader. Buffalo defeated Harvard in the opener and Tennessee knocked off Washington in the second game. The tripleheader was hosted by the Basketball Hall of Fame and held in Ontario as Naismith was born in Almonte, Ontario in 1861.
  • The Bonnies improved to 19-21 all-time against Rutgers, a former Atlantic 10 foe. Head coach Mark Schmidt is now 2-0 against the Scarlet Knights after scoring a road win in the last meeting between the programs on Nov. 23, 2008. Justin Winston hopes to follow in the footsteps of another Bonnie who made his first career start in a win over Rutgers that day – Andrew Nicholson.
  • Lofton's eight assists were one off his career high of nine. He also broke into the program's top 100 scorers all-time with 543 career points in just 38 games.
  • St. Bonaventure now stands 34-37 all-time against current members of the Big Ten and has won its last two games against teams from that conference. The Bonnies defeated Maryland, 63-61, on Nov. 24, 2017.

QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH MARK SCHMIDT
"I'm really proud to be the head coach at St. Bonaventure. We had a tremendous crowd here. It's a special place and really supportive. We're proud to be able to play in this type of a tournament. We've had a lot of great Canadian players at Bonaventure. It's always a tremendous opportunity to play in this type of environment, against a Big Ten opponent and be able to score a win."

"Our freshmen really grew up. AJ and Justin played really well. You never know when the light is going to come on for freshmen and the light came on today for both of those guys. With Osun out, those freshmen are put into position where we need them to have success. They played with confidence and the game wasn't too big for them."

UP NEXT
The Bonnies travel north again for another weekend contest in a pro venue as they take on rival Canisius in downtown Buffalo at the KeyBank Center. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23.

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