By Paul Gotham
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – Semaj Christon sealed a see-saw battle as the Xavier Musketeers improved to 3-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 66-64 road win over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, Wednesday night on Bob Lanier Court at the Reilly Center.
Christon scored Xavier’s final four points and six of the Musketeers’ final eight.
“Semaj was having a lot of success driving at their big kid down the stretch,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “His size and attention he draws, he’s not going to force shots up when he doesn’t feel like they’re available.”
Christon finished in traffic to break a 64-all tie with the winning bucket.
“We wanted to put him in a flat screen situation, and let him get to the rim,” Mack explained. “Big time play for a freshman.”
With St. Bonaventure’s defense having to focus on the perimeter scoring of Brad Redford, Christon capitalized in the paint finding single coverage. The 6-3 freshman scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second stanza hitting four-of-six from the floor and seven-of-nine from the free throw line.
“He did a great job in the first half…of finding teammates on ball screen rolls, on drive and kicks, and that’s what you have to do as a playmaker is take what the defense gives you. I thought he did that extremely well.”
Christon handed out ten assists to go with his game-high point total.
“He’s really good,” St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt said of Christon. “He’s the freshmen of the year.”
The Bonnies took their largest lead of the game with 4:40 remaining when Chris Johnson knocked down a pair of free throws. The Bonnies rallied from four back when Eric Mosley drained back-to-back threes for a 53-51 lead. On the next possession, Mosley was fouled on three-point attempt and hit two-of-three for an eight-point swing.
“We played hard,” Schmidt commented. “We just didn’t finish. Give Xavier credit. They made the plays when they needed to make them. It could have gone either way. We just got to continue to work at it and get better.”
The teams battled through eight lead changes and five ties in the second half.
The Bonnies shot 52.3 percent (23-of-44) from the floor while Xavier finished 26-of-57 (45.6 percent), but the Musketeers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and converted those into 16 second chance points.
Youssou Ndoye paced a 10-5 run as the Bonnies grabbed the lead midway the first half. The seven foot center hit a baseline jump hook outside the lane. On the next trip, he finished at the rim and drew contact for a traditional three-point play.
Demitrius Conger followed with a runner in the lane, and the Bonnies led 14-13.
The advantage was short-lived. Xavier came out of a timeout and found Brad Redford working free off a down screen for one of his three threes in the first twenty minutes. Christon extended the edge using the glass for a deuce.
Christon fed Isaiah Philmore with one of his six first-half assists, and the Musketeers held a 20-14 advantage.
Xavier took their largest lead of the half at 31-23 when Robinson followed a Christon layup attempt with a thunderous slam.
Chris Johnson helped the Bonnies pull within four at the break. The 6-5 small forward dribbled over an Eric Mosley ball screen on the wing. When the Xavier defense adjusted, Johnson found Marquise Simmons wide open under the bucket for two. After a stop at the other end, Johnson got ahead of the defense and drew a foul going to the basket. The two charity tosses made it 31-27 score at half.
Ndoye led four Bonnies in double figures with a career-high 16 on seven-of-eight shooting from the floor.
Mosley added 13. Johnson and Conger followed with 11 apiece.
Redford scored 17 for the Musketeers hitting 5-of-11 behind the arc. Travis Taylor chipped in with 11.
The loss was the sixth straight for Bonaventure who fell to 0-3 in the A10.