OLEAN — St. Bonaventure had the banner ceremony, and the presentation of championship rings before the game.
Then there was a trophy to hand out afterwards.
In between, Siena proved to be a pesky opponent not interested in the trappings of St. Bonaventure’s celebration of 2020-21, at least in the first half. Then the Bonnies, ranked nationally for the first time in almost 50 years, leaned on the banged-up Saints in the second half for a 75-47 victory at the raucous Reilly Center on Tuesday night.
St. Bonaventure was fifth in the nation in defensive scoring average (60.4 ppg) last season, when the Bonnies won the Atlantic-10 championship on their way to a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. With a five-senior starting lineup back, they’re ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press poll, and played like it in the second half, limiting the Saints to 15 points and 24.0% on field goals.
With that, St. Bonaventure held on to the Franciscan Cup, a trophy awarded since 2010 between the two schools, to go along with the pre-game banner recognizing the A-10 title and NCAA appearance, with championship rings given to the returnees.
For Siena, the first half provided an opportunity to make the Reilly crowd of 4,617 more than a little grouchy, trailing just 36-32, and the second half was an opportunity to see how a No. 23 team operates when it’s had enough of a stubborn opponent.
“If you watched the first 18 minutes, you’re really encouraged, right?” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said. “We need to do it for 40 minutes. I never question these guys’ heart, their motive, their work ethic, the desire to win. I wanted to start our season on the road against this team to show how hard we have to play and what we have to do to get to where we want to get to.
“With some guys down and guys in foul trouble, this group showed some fight. We just ran out of gas, and you can’t run out of gas if you’re trying to win on the road against a nationally ranked opponent.”
Maciariello declined to make his players available for interviews after the game.
Aidan Carpenter and Jayce Johnson each scored 10 for the Saints, and Kyle Lofton, the A-10 preseason player of the year, and Jaren Holmes each scored 17 for the Bonnies.
Siena had a difficult time against St. Bonaventure’s centers, 6-foot-10 Osun Osunniyi and 6-9 Karim Coulibaly.
Osunniyi blocked seven shots in 22 minutes, including rejections of driving attempts by Anthony Gaines to start both the first and second halves, and the more physical Coulibaly got the bulk of the minutes in the second half, going 6-for-7 from the field for 12 points.
“He had, what? Eight blocks, seven blocks,” Schmidt said of Osunniyi.
“Sheesh,” said Lofton, sitting two chairs over from his coach in the media room.
“He makes up for a lot of these guys’ mistakes,” Schmidt said.
“Second that,” Lofton said.
“They did a great job getting us out of rhythm,” Maciariello said. “Their defensive intensity pushed up, and now we’re catching the ball farther away from the basket, guys aren’t waiting on screens, all those things that go out the window when you get fatigued, and they just kept their foot on the throttle.
“Him and Coulibaly, I think that’ll be a nice two-headed monster for them, to give him some rest, and guarding a lefty in the post is a little different, as well.”
Siena led 17-7 to start the game with scoring from five different players, including back-to-back threes by Nick Hopkins.
St. Bonaventure got its first lead since the score was 1-0 when Osunniyi dunked to make it 24-23, and a three by Holmes from the left wing gave the Bonnies a 36-32 lead at halftime.
Midway through the second half, Siena went 5 1/2 minutes without a point, and the Bonnies took command with a 16-2 run for a 65-42 lead, capped by a Coulibaly layup off a lob pass from Holmes.
“The biggest concern — and I talked to the seniors about it — being able to have the ring ceremony and the unveiling of the banner, that’s emotional,” Schmidt said. “We needed to come back and focus, and I didn’t think we did a great job at the beginning of the game.”
“It felt like the gool ol’ Reilly Center again … live, rowdy, best fans in the nation and best gym in the nation, in my opinion, and it showed today, especially when we made that run,” Holmes said.
“Tough game. We knew what we’re dealing with coming into the Reilly Center against a nationally ranked opponent,” Maciariello said. “I think it’s great for our ballclub and for our guys to understand it’s not just a 20-minute game.
“We did some good things. At the end of the day, you’ve got to have guys finish the job. We can’t give up second-chance opportunities, can’t give shooters catch-and-shoot threes.”
St. Bonaventure was presented with the Franciscan Cup after the game, a trophy named after Brother Ed Coughlin, a St. Bonaventure alum who served as the Siena president starting in 2014. He died in the summer of 2019.
“We love playing for this Franciscan Cup,” Maciariello said. “Obviously, it’s more special to me, with Brother Ed passing, and he was the president that hired me to be this program’s head coach.”
The Saints were without four players due to injuries, Javian McCollum, Jared Billups, Jordan Kellier and Taihland Owens. Maciariello hopes to get Billups back by Saturday for the home opener against Delaware.
St. Bonaventure was missing Jalen Adaway, one of the five seniors from the 2020-21 championship team, due to a “minor NCAA rules infraction” that will only cost him the Siena game, according to SBU sports information.
Reach Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]
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