Senior Turns Reilly Center Into His Personal Stage

St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams, right, is closely guarded by Aaron Hines of Saint Louis during Wednesday’s Atlantic 10 Conference basketball game at the Reilly Center. It didn’t matter how the senior guard was defended, however, as he scored a career-high 44 points in the Bonnies’ 79-56 victory. P-J photos by Tim Frank

ST. BONAVENTURE — I wasn’t alive for Bob Lanier and Tom Stith.

I did see some great games from Tim Winn, J.R. Bremer, Marcus Posley and others.

But what Jaylen Adams did Wednesday night at the Reilly Center was … pick your superlative.

The 6-foot-2 guard from Baltimore was 14 of 18 from the floor, including 10 of 13 from 3-point range, and checked out with a career-high 44 points as the Bonnies ran away with a 79-56 Atlantic 10 win over Saint Louis.

“Jay played like the Player of the Year,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “They cut it to 3 and Jay just took over from there. I think I was in that zone when I was in CYO at 8 years old. … He couldn’t have played better.”

St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams had the last laugh at the Reilly Center on Wednesday night. P-J photo by Tim Frank

When asked what the difference was between the last couple of weeks when Saint Louis had won five out of six games and Wednesday night, Billikens coach Travis Ford said “turnovers … and one dude had 44.”

All of this came hours after rumors came out on social media that Adams — who was noticeably coughing during the postgame press conference — was sick and may not even play.

“I’m still a little sick, but once that ball goes up and that adrenaline is pumping, you don’t really feel anything in terms of injuries or sickness,” Adams said.

“Who isn’t sick in February?” Schmidt quipped.

Adams shined playing all 20 minutes of the first half, making 4-of-5 3-point attempts and leading all scorers with 17 points.

Jaylen Adams now has just the third back-to-back 40-point games in school history, joining Bob Lanier (February of 1969) and Tom Stith (December of 1959).

“Early on I was able to get some shots to go. I think I got out and got some easy ones in transition that got me going early,” Adams said. “Once a shooter makes his first couple, it felt like I couldn’t miss out there. I was really locked in.”

In the second half, it turned into silly season.

His crossover-into-a-stepback 3-pointer with 15:07 remaining gave him 20 points before his steal and lay-in less than three minutes later put the Bonnies up five. Two possessions later, Adams hit his sixth 3-pointer and at the 10:05 mark he made his seventh to give St. Bonaventure an 11-point lead.

On the Bonnies’ next trip down the floor, Adams sent the crowd of 3,448 into a frenzy when he beat the shot clock with a defender in his face from the midcourt logo.

“Coach just gives me the confidence to go out there and be myself. My teammates understand that I would like to lead the team,” Adams said. “Just going out there and trying to be as good as I can be, take good shots and just let the game come to me.”

With the moment growing ever larger, Adams let a triple rip from the right wing and didn’t even wait to see it go down before he turned around and motioned to the student section after forcing the Billikens into a timeout trailing by 15 with 8:45 left.

“Some of those plays were diagrammed, but I’m not diagramming plays where he’s shooting 30-footers. That’s him,” Schmidt said. ” … We run some stuff for him and Matt, but when it’s going like this or against Duquesne, a lot of it is ‘freelance.'”

Adams went a little out of character his next trip down the floor as he picked up one of his three steals on the night and threw it down for a rare dunk to give himself 36 points on the night.

“The coaching staff and the players joke with me a lot ‘Can you even dunk?'” Adams joked. “I got a steal, looked back and he wasn’t chasing me so let’s see if I could get one.”

After a pair of free throws, Adams broke teammate Matt Mobley’s St. Bonaventure record with his 10th 3-pointer of the game to give him 41 points with 3:21 remaining.

“I knew they were going in. I’ve seen it,” Ford said. ” … I don’t know if anything would’ve worked. A lot of those shots were over a bigger guy that we had on him.”

“I didn’t enjoy watching it, but I have a lot of respect for it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his game,” Ford added. “The name Adams has come out of our mouths about 10 billion times the last two days. All respect to him to go out and score 44 against a team that was trying to stop you.”

Three more free throws, the final with 1:15 left on the clock, put Adams’ total at 44, matching Andrew Nicholson’s mark for third in Reilly Center history by a Bonnie, seven behind Lanier’s record of 51 against Seton Hall on Feb. 24, 1969. The total also tied Adams for sixth in the nation this season.

“Andrew’s was a little bit different where a lot of it was dunks and so forth. … Jay was (facing) a lot of pressure. Guys are getting into him and so forth,” Schmidt said. “For him to be able to score that amount of points and only miss four shots, it speaks volumes.”

Now with 40 points in back-to-back games — he hit the total on the nose Saturday in a win at Duquesne — Adams will look to become the first Bonnie ever to hit the mark in three straight games in front of a sold-out Reilly Center homecoming crowd against Richmond at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

With the way he has played over the past five days, I wouldn’t put it past him.