ST. BONAVENTURE — With 1:46 remaining, Dominick Welch took an open 3-pointer from the wing that would have made it a one-possession game.
The ball went about halfway down before popping out.
It was the perfect encapsulation for how this night went for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.
The Bonnies, after shooting 36 percent from the field, including 15 percent (3-for-19) from 3-point range, on Tuesday, somehow were even worse Friday, going an abysmal 19-of-61 (31 percent) and 4-of-27 from distance against Vermont.
For the second-straight game, however, it wasn’t so much what the defense was doing to stop Bona as it was open shots -- quality looks from documented capable shooters such as Kyle Lofton, Bobby Planutis and Welch -- just not falling.
Bona had at least four perimeter shots rattle around basket before rimming out. It had a couple of possessions with three or four offensive rebounds at the rim only to come away empty-handed.
No matter how close it was to a better showing, however, the result was the same.
IN AN unsightly game all-around, the Catamounts used a key 12-0 run midway through the second half to break open a nailbiter and create enough separation for a 61-59 triumph before 4,489 observers inside the Reilly Center.
Bona lost the rubber match of an exciting three-game series in which every contest came down to the final moments. More unsettling, however, it’s now 0-2 for the first time under coach Mark Schmidt (and the first time overall since 2004-05).
Almost one week into the season, as cliche as it sounds, the Bonnies can’t buy a basket.
“Yeah, it’s basketball,” said Schmidt, when reminded that his team’s struggles seem more self-inflicted than anything else. “We’ve got to get into the gym and work harder at it. We had some shots that went in and out, but that’s basketball. You can’t get frustrated, that’s the way it goes.
“I say it all the time, offense is fickle, jump shooting is fickle. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t, but you’ve got to earn the right to make them, and we’ve got to get back, and we’ve got to live in the gym for the next 4-5 months.”
ONE GAME after going a combined 5-for-23, lead guards Lofton (14 points) and Welch (13 points) finished 8-for-23 between them, including 3-for-14 from 3-point range, though the former had six assists with just one turnover and the latter grabbed 11 rebounds.
Despite those struggles, Bona managed to claw back from 11 down with 7:44 remaining to make it a 56-52 contest with 3:02 left. It did this primarily through inspired performances from Amadi Ikpeze, who’s off to a fine start in his final season, and freshman Justin Winston, who was given more of an opportunity in the absence of star center Osun Osunniyi, who’s expected to miss a month with a bruised knee.
Ikpeze, who has displayed a much-improved touch on his jump hooks and set shots, finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Winston had 10 points and was aggressive when Bona needed it, making 6-of-8 at the line and sparking the late comeback effort.
Then, too, Bona did an excellent job defensively on All-American candidate forward Anthony Lamb, who was limited to 15 points on 3-for-12 shooting after torching Schmidt’s team for 42 and 27 in the previous two meetings.
But a strong defensive effort -- Bona held Vermont to just 33 percent and 3-for-20 from distances -- and solid performances from Ikpeze and Winston weren’t enough to save the Bonnies from another nightmarish night offensively.
“IF SOMEONE had told me that Anthony Lamb was going to get 15 points and go 0-for-7 from 3s, I would have thought we would have won …”
Then, the 13th-year coach pointed to other major issue from Friday night: Fouls. Bona was whistled for a numbing 25, which allowed the Catamounts a noticeable edge at the free throw line. Vermont made 6-of-8 in its big second-half run to build a cushion and finished 24-of-34 (to the Bonnies’ 17-for-22).
“I thought we were right there,” Schmidt said, “(but) we made some dumb plays, fouls. When you get blocked out, sometimes you just have to live for another day and go back. We made some dumb fouls going over people’s backs and just put them at the line, and gave them probably 8-10 free points just by making unintelligent decisions.
The Bonnies had a couple of chances to cut it to one-score game in the final three minutes, but never did, until the final second on a meaningless turnover by Vermont. Just like the Ohio game, it had too many empty possessions when it mattered most.
Given the nature of its misses, however, Bona is confident it will break out of this early-season slump soon … and so is Vermont coach John Becker, whose team took two of three in the series.
“I think it’s just basketball,” Lofton repeated. “Me personally, I work every day. I’m going to still be confident and take the shots that I’m taking, and they’re going to fall soon. And then my teammates, we’ve just got to get in the gym, make 100 shots a day, 100 free throws a day and just be confident.”
Said Becker: “It’s good shooters missing pretty good looks, and it happens early in the year. I’m thankful they didn’t shoot well tonight, but they’re going to break out of it. They’re right on the rim, and they’re good shooters. They’re running a lot of good stuff and creating some good opportunities, so I think it’s just a matter of time before they start to click offensively.”