Bonnies fans stormed the court after Jalen Adaway’s game-winning three-pointer gave St. Bonaventure (7-1) a 68-65 victory over UB (4-3) Saturday afternoon at a sold-out Reilly Center in Allegany, NY.
The Bulls rallied from an 11-point second-half deficit — highlighted by three-pointers from senior guards Ronaldo Segu and Maceo Jack and senior forward Jeenathan Williams — but the comeback was put to rest when Adaway hit the cold-blooded three with just 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock.
St. Bonaventure ran a double on-ball screen to get Adaway open for the game-sealer. The well-designed play saw Adaway get off a clean look as senior forward Josh Mballa lunged for a late contest to no avail.
“Give Adaway credit, he made a nice shot,” head coach Jim Whitesell said after the game. “We got cross wired on the ball screen coverage and he had it with a great looking three. I thought we came real late on the [defensive] challenge but we came with a challenge on it, and give him credit.”
Despite a competitive first half, the Bulls came out lethargic for the first 10 minutes of the second frame. St. Bonaventure led by as many as 13 points in the second half before UB flipped a switch toward the end of the game and made things competitive.
Williams sparked the Bulls’ comeback with 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half. Whether it was in transition or in the half-court offense, he imposed his will on the Bonnies, similar to his 32-point performance in UB’s 88-76 loss to then-No. 6 Michigan.
The Rochester native was also active defensively with four steals, a couple of which he turned into points on the offensive end.
“[It was] just staying patient and trying to play defense,” Williams said. “Get energy on defense to go on offense, that’s what I tried to do. Just stay poised and then just let the game come to me.”
The Bulls had no answer for senior center Osun Osunniyi, who scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. UB threw Mballa, junior forward LaQuill Hardnett and redshirt sophomore center David Skogman in Osunniyi’s way, but none were able to limit the near seven-footer in the paint. Granted, the Bulls didn’t have graduate center Brock Bertram — who stands an inch taller than Osunniyi — at their disposal, as the sixth-year grad student attended the game in street clothes and a walking boot on his left foot.
UB’s big men also failed to make an impact offensively, as Mballa (two points), Hardnett (one point) and Skogman (five points) didn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities.
Adaway led the Bonnies with 16 points while redshirt sophomore guard Linton Holmes and senior guard Dominick Welch each hit pairs of timely three-pointers for St. Bonaventure.
The raucous St. Bonaventure crowd also helped the Bonnies. The 4,860-person sell-out crowd maximized momentum shifts and created a chaotic scene in the Reilly Center. Members of the crowd were constantly berating UB players with personal jabs and coordinated multiple “UB sucks” chants.
That intensity translated on the court. A shoving match between Segu and Welch broke out with 1:29 remaining and resulted in double technical fouls. Both players had to be separated from each other, and the St. Bonaventure crowd loved every second of it.
The visiting Bulls certainly felt the intensity of the Western New York rivalry.
“We talked about that [the atmosphere] coming in here,” Whitesell said. “We knew that it’s going to be intense, they were going to have a great crowd and [it] was gonna be loud, and you’ve got to play with composure and you’ve got to play tough. That’s part of this series. I think it makes you better when you play people like this in these high-intensity games.”
The Bonnies survived Saturday night’s contest without star guard Kyle Lofton, who was sidelined with an ankle injury. The late-game heroics by Williams, Segu and Jack allowed UB to claw its way back into the game, but Adaway’s game-winning three-pointer was indicative of the game itself.
Even though the Bulls hung around and kept the game within striking distance, St. Bonaventure — a team that was ranked as high as 16th nationally before a loss to Northern Iowa last week — proved they were the superior team.
“In these games there’s going to be ebbs and flows. It’s two very good programs. You’re gonna have those ups and downs and you’ve got to hang in there,” Whitesell said. “I thought our guys did a good job of staying the distance.”
The Bulls return to action against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Wednesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, KY. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.
Hunter Skoczylas contributed to the reporting.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @DeCicco42 on Twitter
Hunter Skoczylas is the sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.