Lofton Steps Up As Bonnies Down Dukes
ST. BONAVENTURE — Muddling through a defensive struggle against Duquesne on Friday night, St. Bonaventure was begging for somebody to step up offensively.
Enter Kyle Lofton.
The junior scored 23 of his season-high 28 points in the second half and the Bonnies’ defense stifled the Dukes en route to a 62-48 win at the Reilly Center.
“Lately I haven’t been playing the best basketball, but I just tell myself every day to put in the work and put in the effort,” Lofton said postgame. “I’m just going to stay confident and keep attacking. My team leans on me and I’m going to just do my best to try and help them win.”
Lofton went 8 of 16 from the field and 12 of 14 from the foul line while reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week Jaren Holmes added 11 points as did sophomore reserve Alejandro Vasquez.
“Offensively, it was a struggle,” St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt said. “Thank goodness we had Kyle and he hit some big shots.”
Marcus Weathers made a 3-pointer with 9:13 remaining to pull Duquesne with a point at 43-42, but the Dukes went just 2 for 10 from the field and turned the ball over five times in their final 15 possessions.
“I thought we did a good job (defensively) the whole game,” Schmidt said. “You have a veteran team and they understand the important of defense. … Defense is the staple. Offense is fickle, sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. You win in this league by playing defense and rebounding.”
During the final nine minutes, Lofton made four mid-range jump shots and six free throws to help St. Bonaventure put the game away.
“I think I need to attack more and draw contact more. I haven’t been doing that,” Lofton said. ” … When I get to the free throw line more than five or six times … it gives me confidence seeing one go in.”
A guard from Hillside, New Jersey, Lofton became the 45th 1,000-point scorer in Bonnies history Wednesday at Fordham.
“We were struggling. Dom (Welch) struggled offensively, Jaren struggled offensively, everyone struggled offensively other than Kyle,” Schmidt said. “When Kyle got it going a little bit, you try to run stuff for him. … We went to him. … You go to your hot hand.”
There were five lead changes and four ties early on as the Dukes took an 11-8 lead on a Tavian Dunn-Martin 3-pointer with 13:39 remaining.
Welch was already on the bench by that point after picking up back-to-back fouls and leaving the game with 17:35 remaining in the first half.
After reserve junior Eddie Creal was ineffective in four minutes of play, Schmidt turned to Vasquez and the Queens native provided a spark. His 3-pointer with 11:36 remaining tied the game for the fifth time and another Vasquez 3-pointer just under a minute later gave St. Bonaventure the lead for good. A Jalen Adaway layup and two free throws from Lofton capped what would end up being a 10-0 run to give the hosts a 18-11 lead.
“Guys are going to get in foul trouble. … AJ gave us a big lift in the first half with nine points,” Schmidt said. “Those guys aren’t going to play a ton, but when they get their name called they have to be ready. I thought AJ was ready when that happened.”
Duquesne kept the game close throughout the remainder of the first half and closed the deficit to four at halftime on Dunn-Martin’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining.
Michael Hughes made it a two-point game on Duquesne’s first possession of the second half, but a Lofton layup followed by an and-one dunk from Osun Osunniyi pushed the Bonnies’ lead back up to seven.
Osunniyi was much more effective than he was Wednesday at Fordham when he didn’t score, but handed out a career-high seven assists. On Friday, the junior from Pleasantville, New Jersey, had 8 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots, which moved him into fourth on the school’s all-time blocks list.
“Our whole emphasis is to try and own the paint,” Schmidt said. “Offensively, try to get the ball to the paint with the dribble or the pass and defensively try to keep the ball out of the paint.”
A pair of 3-pointers from Ryan Murphy and a third from Weathers pulled the Dukes within one, but they would get no closer the rest of the way as Lofton and the St. Bonaventure defense held them at bay after an 8-1 run to create space.
“You can’t always depend on shots to fall, but you can depend on getting inside,” Lofton said. “If you get in the paint, things happen — you get fouled, you draw for kick-outs or dump-downs — usually being in attack mode early and throughout the game is a positive.”
Hughes led Duquesne with 14 points and Weathers added 12.
The victory puts the Bonnies (6-1, 4-1) at the top of the A-10 standings while Duquesne fell to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the league.
“If we can hold teams in the 40s we may not lose a game, but that’s not going to happen. Our goal is to keep them under 40 percent field goal percentage and 60 points,” Schmidt said. ” … We’re not a great offensive team right now. We have to win by almost like playing half-court, being physical, defending, rebounding and then getting baskets when we can get those baskets.”
NOTES: Duquesne won the rebounding battle, 39-37. … The Dukes were 7 of 21 from 3-point range, but made just 3-of-9 free throw attempts. … St. Bonaventure led second-chance points, 16-3; points in the paint, 28-22; and points off turnovers, 17-13. … The Bonnies are scheduled to return to action Wednesday at home against Richmond with a 6 p.m. tipoff on CBS Sports Network.
Baker 2-6 0-0 6, Weathers 4-10 3-8 12, Hughes 7-10 0-0 14, Dunn-Martin 2-10 0-1 6, Okani 0-4 0-0 0, Acuff 0-1 0-0 0, Murphy 3-6 0-0 8, Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Kelly 0-3 0-0 0, Bekelja 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-53 3-9 48.
ST. BONAVENTURE (62)
Osunniyi 3-7 2-4 8, Adaway 2-7 0-0 4, Holmes 5-15 1-2 11, Lofton 8-16 12-14 28, Welch 0-3 0-1 0, Vasquez 2-5 5-6 11, Creal 0-2 0-0 0, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-55 20-27 62.
Halftime–St. Bonaventure 27-23. 3-Point Goals–Duquesne 7-21 (Baker 2-4, Murphy 2-4, Dunn-Martin 2-6, Weathers 1-3, Acuff 0-1, Bekelja 0-1, Hughes 0-1, Okani 0-1), St. Bonaventure 2-16 (Vasquez 2-4, Creal 0-1, Adaway 0-2, Welch 0-2, Holmes 0-3, Lofton 0-4). Fouled Out–Baker. Rebounds–Duquesne 36 (Weathers 9), St. Bonaventure 34 (Osunniyi 12). Assists–Duquesne 16 (Dunn-Martin 7), St. Bonaventure 8 (Adaway, Holmes, Lofton 2). Total Fouls–Duquesne 22, St. Bonaventure 14.