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Back To Full Strength, Bonnies Hold Off Mercer 56-51

Osun Osunniyi posted 15 points, 12 rebounds in his return to action Tuesday night.
Osun Osunniyi posted 15 points, 12 rebounds in his return to action Tuesday night.
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Box Score (PDF)

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – Since the midway point of the season-opener back on Nov. 5, Bonnies fans have been waiting for their team to finally be able to play with a full roster following injuries to sophomores Osun Osunniyi and Jaren English.

Both players returned to action Tuesday night vs. Mercer at the Reilly Center, and the result was a tremendous defensive effort and a hard-fought 56-51 victory.

Osunniyi, an Atlantic 10 preseason All-Conference and All-Defensive Team pick, immediately made his presence felt with a double-double effort of 15 points and 12 rebounds.

In a game with little in the way of offensive firepower, each team mounted impressive runs to seemingly take control before having momentum swing in the opposite direction.

Mercer (4-3) opened up a 12-2 lead in the first five minutes, but the Bonnies immediately roared back.

St. Bonaventure opened a 17-0 sprint to move ahead, and continued to seize control by keeping the Bears scoreless for over nine minutes. A pair of free throws broke the cold spell for the visitors, but Mercer ultimately went without a field goal until Maciej Bender finally saw a shot fall with 2:14 remaining in the half - a stretch of over 13 minutes of game time.

By then it was a 24-14 lead for the Bonnies, but the Bears would respond to cut the deficit to seven, 27-20, at halftime and used the first two minutes of the second half to close a 13-0 run to move back in front.

The Bears scored the first bucket of the second half and from there the game was not separated by more than five points for the remainder of the contest.

Free throws from English pushed the Bonnies in front, 47-46, but a quick three from the Bears put the visitors back ahead.

The tide began to turn in favor of the Bonnies at the 2:35 mark thanks to the two returners.

An Osunniyi block resulted in a rebound won by English through traffic and a Mercer foul. English made one of two at the line for a 50-49 lead.

Following a bucket on an alleyoop by Bender, another Bears foul sent Kyle Lofton to the line. The sophomore made both attempts with 1:57 remaining, giving Bona a lead it would ultimately never relinquish.

St. Bonaventure's ability to win the battle for loose balls on the offensive glass in the waning seconds proved the difference, highlighted by a huge rebound from Dominick Welch with 28 seconds to go that forced the Bears to foul. Lofton made two more at the line for a 54-51 edge and the defense held on Mercer's final possession.

 

Lofton finished with 10 points and four assists while Ethan Stair led the Bears with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Welch added eight points and five boards for the Bonnies.

GAME NOTES

  • The Bona defense held Mercer 29 points under its season scoring average and to 6-of-19 from three-point land. The Bears were ranked 33rd in the nation in three-point percentage entering the game.
  • Osunniyi, who had been limited to just 11 minutes so far this season and missed the previous four games due to injury, posted his seventh career double-double.
  • The addition of Osunniyi helped the Bonnies to a 36-33 advantage on the glass.
  • English provided six points, four assists and three rebounds in his Bonnies debut.
  • The Bonnies committed only 11 turnovers which resulted in just one point of Mercer offense.
  • Bobby Planutis had five points and six rebounds and team-best +17 plus/minus rating.
  • Tuesday's game was part of the on-campus round of the Boca Beach Classic.
  • Mercer had averaged 45 percent shooting from the floor in its first six games but shot just 38 percent Tuesday.
  • St. Bonaventure welcomed Carl Saglimben '54 as honorary captain, continuing the program's Centennial Season celebration. He was part of Bona's second NIT team, helping the team advance to the 3rd round. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he was boys basketball coach at Hinsdale High for 15 years. The team also honored Caswell Cyrus '00, the program's all-time blocks leader.

QUOTES FROM HEAD COACH MARK SCHMIDT
"I thought Osun and Jaren brought a lot to our team tonight in terms of toughness and defensive abilities to get stops. Osun, with his blocks and charges, he's a difference maker at the rim. I thought Jaren did a really good job defensively for playing the first game of his (Division I) career. He brought some toughness to us. I thought Dom's two rebounds at the end were critical, along with Osun and Kyle's free throws to wrap it up. I thought we found a way to win, it wasn't pretty."

"Our offense is still behind, we don't have really good spacing. But that team was plus eight on the backboard, they had 49 rebounds the other night. That's one of the areas we were a little weak in and really weak the other day against Canisius. But I thought our guys really did a good job of blocking out, being physical, and Osun was a big part of that."

UP NEXT
The Bonnies travel to Boca Raton, Fla. for the tournament portion of the Boca Beach Classic. St. Bonaventure plays San Diego in the opening round of the tournament Sunday, Dec. 1 at 9 p.m.

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