December 23, 2010 will go down in the books as a loss for a young and scrappy St. Bonaventure Bonnies basketball team, but it can also be the start of a turning point for a program on a rapid rise.
St. Bonaventure was predicted to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the Atlantic-10 Conference by the so-called 'experts.' They stated the Bonnies have only one senior and their only known commodity is the preseason first team Atlantic-10 selection, Andrew Nicholson.
However, what these experts did not realize is the unknown players can sometimes make dramatic improvements, as is the case with many of Bonnies players. A team that had only question marks entering the season is now drawing comparisons by Bona faithful to the 'Iron Man Five' of the 1980s.
Michael Davenport has continued to improve upon his production every season during his career. This season, Davenport has shown new found confidence in his jump shot making him even more dangerous off the dribble.
Da'Quan Cook was a bench player for Head Coach Mark Schmidt during his first two seasons donning the brown and white, but this year he has been the starter since day one. He has shown improvements in every area in his game and is able to get the big offensive boards when the team needs them.
Demetrius Conger, a 6-foot-6 Brooklyn native, has averaged a resounding eight boards per game as a small forward. He has shown a great touch from the perimeter while having a career game against Cornell earlier this season.
This of course leads us to the last two members of the starting five. One is the senior from London, England and the other is a junior Mississauga, Ontario native. Obviously these two men are Ogo Adegboye and Andrew Nicholson.
Adegboye continued his clutch play against Virginia Tech earlier this evening when he forced overtime by hitting a three pointer with only 15 seconds remaining. Not to be outdone, Nicholson has hit two game-winners this season, against University at Buffalo and St. Johns.
This all leads me to my point. St. Bonaventure, a team that no one expected much of this season has begun to turn heads with their play. ESPN's Andy Katz had them as one of the team's he's most impressed with thus far on the season. He also commended Andrew Nicholson saying, "If you haven't heard the name Andrew Nicholson, it's time you learn it."
St. Bonaventure was also featured in ESPN's top-10 play segment for their four overtime victory over the Ohio Bobcats. Yes, the Ohio Bobcats who busted brackets last year to make the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Bonnies, as alluded to earlier also went on the road to Cornell and beat a team that was in the Sweet-16 last season. Admittedly it was a team with only two remaining starters from the year prior, but winning on the road is definitely an accomplishment.
After a thrilling last second win against Buffalo at home, the Bonnies traveled to St. Johns to play a Big East opponent they had not defeated since 1960. After falling behind 13-2 to start the game, the Bonnies remained close even without contributions from their star center, who was limited to only two points in the first half.
However, in the second half, Nicholson became a man possessed. He scored 17 points including the eventual game winner with only 5.2 seconds remaining. With that shot, the Bonnies had scored one of the biggest early season upsets. Defeating a St. Johns team loaded with nine seniors in their house is something to be proud of.
Then came tonight. Playing Virginia Tech in a neutral court in Rochester, the Bonnies fell behind 21-5 to begin play. The team predicted to finish second in the ACC seemed to be too much for the Bonnies, but yet again they clawed their way back. They forced overtime on a late three by Adegboye and if not for an injury to Nicholson who would have known what could of happened.
As it is, the Bonnies fell by the score 76-68. Let it serve warning to the teams of the Atlantic-10. The Bonnies are for real and they are never out of a game. They have a determination not seen out of a Bonaventure team in years and have a talented young core.
Once the Atlantic-10 season begins eyes should start to turn towards the Bonnies. They are one dangerous team and they could legitimately make a run to earn an at-large bid.
For the Bonnies; Let the games begin.
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