Jordan Gathers only hit one triple, but it was the biggest shot of the game. Coach Mark Schmidt called it one of the biggest in St. Bonaventure history.
With 20 seconds left in regulation, Charlon Kloof dribbled at the top of the key waiting for the clock to drop down into single-digits. Helped by a screen, Kloof went to his right, was caught in a scramble, and found Gathers for the game-winning triple as time expired to edge the Bonnies past the Billikens, 71-68.
“You dream about hitting shots like that,” Gathers said.
The Bonnies forced Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Jordair Jett into six turnovers, the most critical coming with 49 seconds left. With the score knotted at 65 apiece, Klouff took it up the floor, penetrated, and found Matthew Wright for a corner three. The top seed was not going away easily. Dwayne Evans knocked down a game-tying triple on the ensuing possession to knot things up at 68 apiece.
“The first five minutes of the second half was critical,” Schmidt said. “I thought our 1-3-1 was critical. And we made plays. We finished.”
The Bonnies trailed 32-19 with 3:39 left to go in the first half, but closed on a mini 9-6 run capped by a buzzer beater lay-in by Youssou Ndoye as the first half clock expired.
Gathers started the second half with a jumper followed by a trey by Wright to cut the Billikens’ lead to 38-33. St. Louis did respond minutes later as a trey by Tanner Lancona made it a seven-point game.
Behind Kloof’s six assists, the Bonnies weathered the storm. “He is the life of our team,” Gathers said. “He gets us pumped in the locker room and keeps us going.” Kloof finished with 22 points, shooting 6-of-8 from the field and a perfect 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
The Bonnies broke out on a 15-3 run highlighted by two straight triples from Williams, giving them a 57-52 lead. The Bonnies were clinging on to a 61-56 lead with five minutes to go, until Jordair Jett and Mike McCall Jr. led the Billikens back into a deadlock. The game was tied three times in the final 2:43 before being decided.
Wright finished shooting 8-of-13 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range, scoring 22. Ndoye did not lead the way in scoring, putting up 13, but Schmidt had high praise for him. “I thought Youssou (Ndoye) gave us a great lift at the end of the half,” Schmidt said.
The Bonnies will face the winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal between Dayton and St. Joe’s, two teams that both stand precariously on the NCAA bubble.
by John Fanta, Big East Reporter, @JohnFanta13