By Paul Gotham
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team surrendered 63 second-half points Wednesday.
And they won.
Playing for their post-season lives the Bonnies turned in a gut check of all gut-check performances absorbing everything the University of Massachusetts Minutemen had to offer and still finding something left in the tank.
From long range to the rim, at the free throw and all points in between, Mosley dazzled. The senior point guard tallied 21 of his career-high 39 points in the second half as SBU snapped a nagging two-game losing streak.
Mosley’s four free throws erased a two-point deficit and put the Bonnies in front, 89-87 with less two minutes remaining, and his teammates took over from there.
“Eric couldn’t have played better offensively,” said St. Bonaventure head coach, Mark Schmidt. “This was a great team effort.”
Coming off back-to-back overtime losses, the Bonnies kept themselves in contention for the A-10 post-season in Brooklyn, New York next month.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Schmidt commented. “The effort that they gave coming off two heart-breakers, they could have caved in, could have faded.”
Mosley gave the Brown and White its largest lead of the second half with a catch-and-shoot three from the left side just above foul line extended. Jordan Gathers drove the opposite wing, drew the defense and kicked to his teammate for the bucket and an 80-73 lead.
But the Minutemen refused to go away. After trailing by as much as a dozen in the first half, UMass used a full-court press that simultaneously kept them in the game only to take it away.
Freddie Riley scored eight straight to give UMass its first lead of the game 57-56 with 12:43 on the clock. The senior guard intercepted a pass and converted it for a dunk when teammates Maxie Esho and Chaz Williams pinned Charlon Kloof in the corner on an inbound pass.
Riley followed with a three when Raphiel Putney drove baseline from the right wing and kicked to Riley waiting at the top of the arc for a 57-56 edge.
Bona quickly reclaimed the lead with a pair Mosley free throws. After Mosley originally missed the front end of a one-and-one, a lane violation put back him at the line and he made good on the opportunity.
Riley connected again behind the arc – this time from the baseline in the right corner, and UMass led 60-58.
“We found a way,” Schmidt said. “We got some breaks. We hadn’t gotten breaks in the last two games…We made the most of it.”
Demitrius Conger and Mosley combined as the Bonnies pushed the lead back to seven.
Conger nailed a trifecta from the top of the arc. On the next trip, the senior forward got into the paint, used a jump stop, pivoted and fed Mosley curling off a screen at the top of the key for another trey. SBU led 74-67.
Chris Johnson helped Bona maintain the advantage with a layup in transition. The senior forward followed with a pretty floater along the baseline and a 77-71 score 5:35 remaining.
UMass whittled away.
Williams drove from the top of the key for a bucket. Terrell Vinson hit a runner in the lane. Vinson followed with a pair of free throws.
By the time Sampson Carter finished a rebound and putback, UMass had an 87-85 edge with 1:53 to go and drama took over.
Officials stopped play to review action from the previous Bonaventure possession. After looking at the video monitor, the referees issued Vinson with a Flagrant1 foul. It was Vinson’s fifth of the game.
Bonaventure was awarded two free throws, which Mosley converted, and the ball.
“When they called for the tv on the flagrant foul I thought that was a momentum changer,” said UMass head coach Derek Kellogg. “They went to free throw line a couple of times after that.”
UMass rallied to grab one last lead. Williams took the ensuing inbound and raced the length of the floor for the basket and a foul. After a traditional three-point play, UMass led 90-89 and had a chance to set up its press.
The Bonnies didn’t flinch breaking through the one-two-one-one defense getting the ball into the offensive end.
Youssou Ndoye hit a jump hook outside the lane. Conger converted two charity tosses on each of the next two possessions, and Bona looked to pull away at 95-90. Chris Johnson sealed the victory with four more free throws.
“When a team presses, you can do two things,” Schmidt explained. “You can break it and pull it back, and that gives them a free press, or you can attack it. If you’re going to give them a free, they’re going to press you harder. I thought we did a great job. The game plan was if you broke it, and you had numbers you want to attack. If you didn’t have numbers, you pulled it back and ran some offense. We had some turnovers, but for the most part, we did a good job in breaking it, attacking it and making decent decisions.”
In all the Minutemen were whistled for 29 personal fouls with Carter, Esho and Putney fouling out along with Vinson.
The Bonnies connected on 32-of-33 attempts from the charity stripe.
“We tell the guys all the time ’25 percent of all points are scored from the foul line,’” Schmidt explained. “Today it was a third. We got good foul shooters and hopefully that continues.”
Mosley paced the Bonnies with 18 first-half points. He opened the scoring with a layup in traffic. The senior curled off a screen into the lane, caught a pass from Conger and used a double pump drawing contact and getting the ball into the cylinder. After a free throw for an old fashioned three-point play, SBU led 3-0. He followed with a runner off the glass.
Johnson extended the lead to 7-2 with a jumper in transition.
Mosley scored five in a 7-0 run as SBU took its largest lead of the half. After Marquise Simmons drew an offensive charge on the defensive end, Mosley made good on the opportunity with a free throw line jumper. Following the final media timeout of the first 20, the 5-10 Mosley drained a three over the outstretched arms of 6-8 Esho.
“I can’t really explain it,” Mosley said when asked about his effusion of points. “My teammates look for me, and I just try to make plays. I feel like every time I shoot the ball, it’s going in.”
Conger powered up a lay-in on the next trip, and Bona led by 12 at 36-24.
Williams led as UMass outscored Bona 6-2 to close the stanza for the halftime count of 38-31.
Williams used a ball screen to pull up from the top of the key for a three. The 5-9 point guard led Freddie Riley in transition for an alley oop dunk. After a pair of Charlon Kloof free throws, Williams grabbed a long rebound and went end-to-end for a layup.
UMass committed 12 turnovers through the opening 20 minutes of play while handing out just six assists on 12 field goals.
Williams committed his second foul at the 15:51 mark of the first half. Carter’s second foul came just 2:12 into the contest.
Mosley finished with 39 on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor including five-of-eight behind the arc and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. It was Mosley’s second consecutive 30-point outburst. The senior from Louisville, Kentucky scored 30 against Richmond.
Mosley’s 39 was the most a Bona player has ever scored against an A-10 opponent and the highest point total in a regulation game since Greg Sanders amassed 46 versus Detroit in 1977.
The last Bona to have back-to-back 30-point performances was Andrew Nicholson a year ago when the first round NBA draft pick put 32 on the board against Rhode Island and followed with 30 over Fordham.
Johnson added a career-high 22 hitting seven-of-15 from the floor.
Conger notched his third double-double of the year and 11th of his career with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Williams led the Minutemen with his own double-double scoring 26 while handing out 12 assists.
Vinson scored 20. Riley chipped in 17, and Cady Lalanne added 12.
The win puts Bona back in the hunt to qualify for the A-10 tournament with four games left on the ledger. The top 12 teams advance to Brooklyn. Post-season play begins on March 14th.
SBU fell in overtime to Richmond and La Salle the last two times out. After leading by 10 early, the Bonnies had to rally from 13 back in the second half before losing at Richmond, 83-80.
The Bonnies recovered from a 16-point first-half hole against La Salle in a 69-66 home setback a week ago.
Nicholson averages eight points and 3.8 rebounds for the Orlando Magic.
Bonaventure travels to Pittsburgh to take on Duquesne this Saturday. Mosley led three in double figures when the Bonnies beat the Dukes on February second, 68-60.
UMass hosts Dayton Saturday.