Xavier shatters St. Bonaventure’s heart 84-77
In their NIT semifinal matchup, Xavier squared off against St. Bonaventure, who had an electric home crowd in their favor throughout the night. St. Bonaventure resides in Ollean, New York, so it makes sense that the fans in MSG would lean towards the Bonnies. Despite not having the crowd on their side, Xavier was able to come out strong and put an emphatic stamp on the game early on. Jack Nunge scored Xavier’s first five points via his smooth stroke, and they never looked back in the first half. Xavier outrebounded St. Bonaventure by 10 in the first half, and had 11 second chance points compared to St. Bonaventure’s 0. Fast forward to the second half. After a big-time three from Kyle Lofton, followed by a block on the defensive end, St. Bonaventure chopped at what was originally a 15 point halftime lead, to a single-digit game. A vicious two-handed dunk by Osun Osunniyi made it a 9 point game, and re-energized their home crowd. As opposed to their first half style of basketball, where they heavily relied on Dominick Welch, St. Bonaventure was able to involve their big men within their offense. Through the pick and roll, which forced the defense to choose between Welch and Osunniyl, St. Bonaventure was able to become a threat offensively. Osunniyl had another thunderous dunk after he curled on a screen, which utterly electrified a fantastic home crowd, with nearly 7 and a half minutes left. St. Bonaventure’s big men did a fantastic job finding open space off the pick and rolls and finishing, and they made Xavier pay nearly every time. Dominick Welch’s three from the corner, created out of transition by Jaren Holmes, brought the Bonnies within 5, with over five minutes left. Welch’s three was one of the biggest shots of the night, and Holmes gave a fantastic effort on the defensive side of the ball in the second half, causing chaos for Mark Schmidt. St. Bonaventure’s improved impact defensively, combined with their successful usage of alley-oops and pick and rolls, created a much improved performance in comparison to their first half. But, it still wasn’t enough to get a lead. An Adam Kunkle fast break dunk with under a minute left allowed Xavier to start truly tasting their victory, and they went onto win the game 84-77. Even though St. Bonaventure made multiple runs, Xavier maintained their lead, which fluctuated anywhere between 7-12 points for a majority of the second half. Jack Nunge, Xavier’s star forward, dropped 16 points and 8 rebounds, and only missed two shots all night. Nunge was just one of four scorers in double digits for Xavier, including Colby Jones (16-8-4), Adam Kunkel (18-4-3), and Zach Freemantle, who added 17-6 coming off the bench. As for St. Bonaventure, they absolutely put on a show for their home crowd. They had four double digit scorers of their own, including Welch (who had 25-7) and Lofton’s 15-11-5. While St. Bonaventure was able to make entertaining runs and had the most highlight-worthy plays all night; their four-guard lineup couldn’t do enough to counteract Xavier’s interior play. Xavier had double the amount of points in the paint, and outrebounded St. Bonaventure by 10, which allowed them to fight off St. Bonaventure’s heart. Xavier won the game 84-77, and advanced to the NIT Championship, which takes place Thursday, March 31st.