By Paul Gotham
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – A stingy St. Louis defense allowed just 17 field goals while forcing 19 turnovers as the Billikens defeated the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, 67-57 in Atlantic 10 action on Bob Lanier Court at the Reilly Center, Saturday evening.
Dwayne Evans set the tone with a steal and layup on Bona’s first possession of the game for two of his game-high 18 as the Billikens grabbed a lead they never surrendered.
“Our defense dictated the tempo of the game for us,” said St. Louis interim head coach, Jim Crews. “Right from the get go it was excellent.”
Evans ran the early lead to five when he knocked down a three on an inside-out pass from Grandy Glaze. The Bills defense created a run out on a long rebound, and Rob Loe converted at the other end for a 7-0 advantage, and a Bonaventure timeout.
The Bonnies were unable to score more than six straight at any point during the contest as the Brown and White’s long-range threat, prominent during its recent wins, failed to find the measure.
“Our guys really ran guys off the shot spots pretty good throughout the game,” Crews continued. “We were able to create some offense because of defense.”
Jordair Jett gave St. Louis its first double-digit lead at 19-7 with a pull-up trey.
Charlon Kloof and Demtrius Conger kept the Bonnies close early.
Conger used a spin dribble to get into the lane and finished with a floater. Kloof closed the gap to three when took advantage of a rare gap in the Billiken defense for a drive and two-handed slam.
Matthew Wright got behind his defender with a backdoor cut, and Conger found him open under the bucket for a deuce.
But the Billikens suffocated SBU’s shooters allowing just seven-of-22 makes before the break.
“In this league if you’re going to be successful, especially us, you have to play you’re A-game,” commented St. Bonaventure head coach, Mark Schmidt. “Your main guys have to play really well, and we didn’t do that today.”
“We got off to a bad start,” Schmidt added. “Last two games we got off to great starts. We couldn’t score, and that affected our defense.”
Jordan Gathers responded with a pair of free throws for the 38-23 halftime score.
The Bills scored 11 points on nine Bonaventure first-half turnovers.
St. Bonaventure outscored St. Louis, 34-29 after the break, but the Bonnies could never get any closer than six.
“We did a decent job, I thought, in second half of defending, a decent job of rebounding the ball. We had chances,” Schmidt noted.
The Bonnies scored the first six of the second stanza to trim the lead to single digits.
Youssou Ndoye nailed a baseline jumper. Eric Mosley created a turnover when he took a charge on Grandy Glaze. Chris Johnson hit a pair of free throws before Ndoye connected on a jump hook in the lane for a 38-29 margin.
But the Bills quickly responded with three players connecting on four-of-seven free throws.
Again, SBU answered. Demitrius Conger curled off a screen and finished with a powerful slam. One possession later, Johnson nailed a pull-up trifecta from free throw line extended on the right wing to trim the lead to six.
“We kept our poise pretty good,” Crews said. “We knew the Bonnies would come back and keep punching. They just keep punching. They’re competitive kids.”
Evans hit seven-of-11 shots from the floor and all three of his attempts from the free throw line. The junior forward also led St. Louis with eight rebounds.
Cody Ellis added 10 points.
Jett handed out three assists with a turnover.
Conger paced St. Bonaventure with 15 points. The senior forward had a game-high nine rebounds.
Johnson and Kloof chipped in 11 apiece.
The Billikens came in leading the Atlantic 10 holding opponents to just 57.9 points per game. SLU allowed 46 or fewer points in four straight in late December.
SLU opponents hit less than 43 percent from the floor and 38 percent behind the arc.
The Bonnies hit 10 threes in their most recent victory – a 73-64 triumph at St. Joseph’s. The Bonnies hit 11 treys in an 81-78 defeat of Temple.
Saturday, the Bonnies were two-of-16 from long range.
The Bonnies host Duquesne next Saturday. A 4 p.m. tip time is scheduled at the Reilly Center.