Behind enemy lines: St. Bonaventure student reporter previews game at VCU

Photo of Kyle Lofton courtesy of Erin Lanahan/The Intrepid

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

After opening Atlantic 10 play 2-0, the Rams are on a two-game skid as St. Bonaventure visits the Siegel Center on Saturday afternoon. 

The Bonnies enter the matinee contest undefeated in conference play and fresh off a four-game win streak. 

Jeff Uveino, sports editor at St. Bonaventure’s student-run newspaper The Intrepid, answered five questions to preview the Bonnies ahead of Saturday’s game. Responses have been edited for clarity

Last year, VCU held St. Bonaventure to 55 points and 5.6% (1-for-18) from three. How has the team improved from last year’s meeting in Olean?

After the departure of two starters [Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin] to graduation, there are a lot of new faces that have seen time this year for SBU. Freshmen Justin Winston and Alejandro Vasquez, as well as sophomore transfers Jaren English and Bobby Planutis, have played significant roles in the Bona offense. Those four have combined for nearly 30 points per game this season. The Bonnies have also allowed just 61.7 points per game, a slight improvement from 63.1 points per game a year ago.

Kyle Lofton had a breakout freshman year last season. What has he done this year to build on that?

Lofton makes the Bona offense go. His scoring is right on track with his freshman year [15 points per game], but he has distributed the ball at an impressive rate, as well. Lofton has averaged 6.6 assists per game this year and had 11 assists in three straight games in December. He plays nearly 40 minutes per game, which is a testament to head coach Mark Schmidt’s trust in Lofton to not only be Bona’s primary source of offense, but to be its floor general as well.

Other than Lofton, who is the player that VCU fans should keep an eye out for?

Sophomore forward/center Osun Osunniyi makes his presence felt around the rim. Despite a knee injury limiting him this season, Osunniyi has averaged 9.3 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. Also, watch for Dominick Welch to shoot the ball from the outside. Other than Lofton, Welch is Bona’s primary scoring guard, and has averaged 11.5 points per game this year. Welch shoots nearly 40% from 3-point range, and can be dangerous when he gets hot.

The Bonnies are 4-0 in A-10 play after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. What’s been the key to their fast start in conference play, how can they continue to play well in the A-10 and did that surprise you that they are 4-0?

Honestly, the opponents on the schedule have had as much to do with Bona’s quick start as anything. Those four teams (GW, George Mason, Fordham and UMass) are a combined 3-13 in A-10 play so far. However, Schmidt-coached SBU teams seem to always get better as the season goes along. Osunniyi’s health down the stretch will have a large impact on Bona’s success, as will the ability of role players, such as the ones I mentioned earlier, to make significant contributions. The Bonnies only have one senior and one junior on the roster. The team is getting more experienced every day, but will need to play like veterans if they are going to have continued A-10 success.

What’s your score prediction?

Two years ago, a Jaylen Adams-led Bona team went into the Siegel Center and beat VCU, 68-63. However, the Bonnies don’t have the firepower to do that again this year. This will be a good test to see where Bona stands amongst the top teams in the A-10. I’ll take VCU, 73-62.

The Rams and Bonnies tipoff at 2 p.m. at the Siegel Center and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

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