By PAUL GOTHAM
Necessity created opportunity, and Mark Schmidt‘s St. Bonaventure Bonnies found what they knew they had all along.
With Jaylen Adams going to the bench because of an injured ankle midway through the second half of Saturday’s 82-72 win over Atlantic 10 rival George Mason, the Bonnies needed a leader. Denzel Gregg stepped to the forefront.
“When Jay went down, he’s the guy,” Schmidt said of Gregg during the Atlantic 10’s weekly teleconference. “We didn’t have our best perimeter player in the game, and he knew he needed to step up and it was good to see that he could do that.”
The senior forward poured in a career-high 24 points and matched a season-high with 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season and sixth of his career.
“That’s what we need him to do,” Schmidt added. “I thought that was the best game he’s played in his career.”
Playing against the A-10’s top rebounding team, Gregg grabbed five caroms on the offensive end to pace his game-high effort on the glass.
“When Denzel’s going to the offensive glass, he’s energized,” Schmidt noted “He’s into the game. He’s focused.”
Gregg’s three-point play with 1:30 remaining all but sealed the victory.
“He needs to continue to play with that focus and with that energy.”
He collected two blocks as well and is tied for the A-10 lead with 2.2 erasures per contest. Per KenPom, Gregg’s block percentage of 9.7 in conference play puts him at top of the A-10 list. His overall rating of 7.4 is 77th in the country.
The performance shouldn’t comes as a complete surprise. Gregg earned A-10 6th Man of the Year last season when he scored 9.3 points and grabbed 5.3 rebounds. But it happened with Adams (22.3 ppg/6.2 apg) on the bench for the final 12 minutes of the game, and teammate Matt Mobley (19.6 ppg) struggling (eight points on 2-of-8 shooting) to find his shooting touch. Gregg’s effort on Saturday signaled the first time he might have been considered the Bonnies top priority on offense.
“Matt wasn’t playing extremely well that game,” Schmidt stated. “Sometimes when one of your main guys goes down, some guys start looking at each other. Our guys really stepped up.”
Bona (10-5/2-1) travels to take on Richmond (9-6/3-0) Wednesday night. Adams is a game-time decision. The Spiders are 3-0 for the first time in Atlantic 10 play. UR has won seven of the last 10 in the series and is 16-6 overall against the Bonnies. The Spiders De’Monte Buckingham is the reigning A-10 Rookie of the Week averaging 19 points and three assists in a pair of wins.
“They’re playing extremely well with a lot of confidence,” Schmidt said. “When they shoot the ball the way they did against GW (35 of 52 including 8 of 15 3-point attempts), they’re really hard to guard and hard to defend. They’re doing what they need to do. Their offense is really clicking. They’re extremely dangerous.”
A 7 pm tipoff is scheduled.