ST. BONAVENTURE — News, notes and other information from the Bonnies’ 88-85 season-opening loss to Bucknell on Wednesday inside the Reilly Center:
— On a night where all nine Bona players in uniform made an impact at one point or another, one of its holdovers from last year’s 26-win team was arguably the team’s most valuable.
LaDarien Griffin, in his second year as the starting power forward, recorded the sixth double-double of his career with 13 points and 10 rebounds, added four steals and was strong defensively for much of the night. The 6-foot-6 senior also twice hit a jumper with under three minutes remaining to stretch his team’s lead to six, though Bona couldn’t hang on to that advantage.
But his night ended in frustration.
Early in overtime, Griffin went down hard under the Bucknell basket, clutching his right knee in the aftermath, and never returned. With big men Amadi Ikpeze and Osun Osunniyi having fouled late in the second half and Griffin on the bench with his knee wrapped, Bona finished out the game with four guards and 6-foot-7 forward Tshiefu Ngalakulondi at the ‘5’ spot.
Griffin’s status for Saturday’s game with Jackson State is unclear. Though it came in a loss, Schmidt was pleased with the veteran presence the Jacksonville native provided.
“He made those two jump shots … shots that he wouldn’t have made last year,” the 12th year coach said. “But yeah, he’s the most experienced guy we’ve got out there. As a coach, we’re going to try to rely on him a little bit more. But it’s hard to rely on a 4-5 guy; you want to rely on those guards because those guards have the ball in their hands 80-90 percent of the time and those are the guys that are going to make those decisions.”
He added: “He’s been a role player for three years, and now we’re expecting him to step up. What did he have? 13 and 10? That’s not bad. We’ll take 13 and 10 from LaDarien every time.”
— In his first action of the season, Nelson Kaputo did some good things for the Bonnies, and provided a reminder of the kind of positive presence he can provide.
The 6-foot point guard, who sat out both the Kent State scrimmage and Alfred exhibition with an injured ankle, came off the bench at the first media timeout alongside fellow guard Alpha Okoli and Osunniyi. He finished with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 13 minutes, had two assists and no turnovers and took a charge early in the second half.
Though the bulk of the point guard minutes went to Kyle Lofton, who played well in his debut, Kaptuo finished with the highest plus-minus rating for Bona at plus-14 and was one of only four Bonnies with a positive rating, alongside Osunniyi (5), Okoli (5) and Ikpeze (3).
— Bona went with the same starting lineup it used in the Alfred exhibition, going with a pair of freshmen — Lofton and Dominick Welch — plus ULV transfer Jalen Poyser in the backcourt and experienced bigs Griffin and Ikpeze in the frontcourt.
The four freshmen played at the same time for at least two different short spells — for the first time with 6:41 left in the first half — and both times alongside Griffin.
At times, they didn’t play like first-year additions: Osunniyi, who tallied eight points in 15 minutes, displayed a couple of Andrew Nicholson-like finishes around the basket; Welch was the first Bonnie to reach double figures and Lofton was the team’s leading scorer at 18 points, which included a big play in overtime that nearly allowed Bona to pull off a miracle.
With 4.5 seconds remaining and his team down 86-82, Lofton drew a foul on a 3-point attempt that very nearly went in. The 6-foot-3 point guard stepped up and drained all three free throws to bring the Bonnies to within one and gave them a chance to eventually tie it at the buzzer.
— As expected, Courtney Stockard sat out the opener as he continues to make his way back from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery. Junior college transfer Melkisedek Moreaux also sat with an injury. According to a report Tuesday, Stockard is still not a full participant in practice, leaving him likely doubtful for the next two games — Saturday against Jackson State and Monday at Niagara — and a question mark for the Bonnies’ three-game tournament in the Cayman Islands beginning Nov. 19.