Steady snowfall kept the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team from arriving on time for its game against Temple on Wednesday. The Owls waited for the Bonnies to get dressed and stretch, then saddled them with a 71-47 beating.
With the win, the Owls (7-7) improved to 3-0 in the Atlantic Ten Conference and witnessed the return to form of star point guard Mardy Collins, who uncharacteristically turned the ball over eight times in a loss at Maryland last Saturday. Collins scored 17 points and grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds against the Bonnies (1-14, 0-4) while committing just two turnovers.
“I was very pleased with [Collins],” coach John Chaney said. “He was listening, he was talking to the other players. He seemed like the old Mardy. My lecture [yessterday was] that way when things don’t go well, or when things go well. You’ve got to be the same guy. I want to see the same face in place.”
Chaney will look for that demeanor from Collins tomorrow when the Owls travel to Ohio to take on Xavier. The Musketeers (8-6, 2-2) will be certain underdogs to the Owls, the only unbeaten team in the A-10.
“It’s harder to keep focus when you’re favored against a team,” Collins admitted, “but I think our coaches do a great job of keeping us focused. They bring us in, make sure we’re not playing around, get our heads straight, and just make sure we stay focused for the game. Sometimes it’s very difficult, but they do a good job of doing that for us.”
If Xavier tops 50 points tomorrow, it will be the first conference opponent to do so against Chaney’s matchup zone this season. The Owls have held their first three A-10 opponents under the half-century mark for the first time in the John Chaney era.
Temple might not be able to blow Xavier out, but a close contest might work in the Owls’ favor. The Musketeers’ two conference wins have come by a combined 45 points. Both of their losses in the A-10, meanwhile, have been in games decided by four points or less.
Sophomore guard Dustin Salisbery’s fifth straight start was spoiled when he was benched after playing 17 minutes. Salisbery had played 30 minutes or more in four straight games and had not played less than 20 minutes since the second game of the season.
“I took Dustin out because you could see it and you could feel it. He was jacking up shots,” Chaney said. “Ordinarily he’s been the most consistent player we’ve had on the floor. But he comes out tonight and he’s jacking shots.”
The Owls held a double-digit lead throughout the second half, clearing the way for freshmen reserves Chris Clark and DaShone Kirkendoll to see extended action. Clark recorded career highs with 17 minutes and six points.
“If we played pretty decent, we figured everybody could get a chance to play tonight,” said sophomore forward Dion Dacons, who tied a career high with six rebounds. “Not taking anything away from St. Bonaventure, because they’re a good team, but if we executed like we were supposed to, we hoped everybody would get in the game.”
ONE AT A TIME
Collins gave little credence to rumors that the Owls are a shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament if they perform well against the A-10.
Despite taking sole position atop the conference with Saint Joseph’s loss to Dayton Wednesday, the junior said the Owls weren’t looking beyond tomorrow’s opponent.
“We’re not trying to look ahead to the tournament,” Collins said. “[Assistant coach Dan Leibovitz] told us to take each game one by one, and we feel if we do that we have a good chance of winning the A-10 or at least win enough games to make the tournament. We just want to come out here and look at each game one by one.”
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.