AMHERST — In his first action in a month, there, naturally, were ups and downs.
Jaylen Adams, sporting his new No. 3, scored the first points of the game for the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team. A minute later, he missed well short on a 3-pointer, drawing “air ball” chants from the UB student section the rest of the half.
Adams had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting and played 28 minutes in his 2017-18 debut. He also had more turnovers than assists (4 to 2) and seemed a half-step behind in the time he was out there.
Yeah, he displayed undeniable rust, but on this day, the rust was OK. Bona had its star player back, and that’s what mattered most.
“Having Jay back, even though Jay didn’t play great …” coach Mark Schmidt said, “just having him out there gives our team a calming influence. Our quarterback is there. He’ll get better.”
It didn’t take the Wooden, Oscar Robertson and Naismith preseason nominee long to add to his growing list of accomplishments. With that first bucket, he passed Delmar Harrod (1,378 points) for 20th on the program’s all-time scoring list and now stands at 1,386 points and counting.
He wasn’t particularly concerned about numbers, however. He was happy to be back and happy to be part of an impressive road win.
“I was extremely excited,” said Adams, whose team topped the Bulls 73-62 at Alumni Arena Saturday. “I’ve been watching the last couple games, so I’ve been getting a different viewpoint than usual, but I’m just glad I can come back out here and compete with my guys.”
The 6-foot-2 point guard still had a slight hitch in his step, the effects of a left ankle injury that forced him to miss the first six games. His first contest now under his belt, he said he feels OK.
“If I’m out on the court, then I’m not really worried about it, it’s just numbers,” he said. “I can play through it. If I’m out there, I’m OK.”
— Bona continued its dominance of the Bulls, winning for the seventh time in eight games (and for the fourth time in a row) since the teams started playing regularly in 2010, and now owns a 10-2 advantage in the all-time series.
Before Saturday, the average margin of deficit had been 4.7 points, and Saturday was another close one, with Bona clinging to a 60-57 lead with 4:35 left before pulling away. Both teams put on a show before an energized near-sellout crowd of 6,212.
The Bonnies took notice of the impressive game day atmosphere.
“Every one of those Big 4 games, you know you’re going to get the other team’s best,” Adams said. “Coach says, they play in the MAC, so they’re trying to knock off an Atlantic 10 team. They’re going to come out hungry, and that’s the majority of those Big 4 teams.
“We felt the energy, and I’m just glad we came out with a win.”
— Bona had another strong day defensively, indicating once again that it’s made real improvement from last season.
It limited a Bulls team that had been averaging 85 points (tied for 40th nationally) on 44 percent shooting and 10 3-pointers to 62 points, 34 percent shooting and just 7-of-29 from 3-point range.
On the season, Bona has held four of seven opponents below 40 percent shooting and five of seven to 62 points or fewer. Though it’s early, it came into Saturday as the A-10 leader in both scoring defense (64.7) and field goal percentage defense (.408).
— Courtney Stockard set a career high with nine rebounds and added 13 points (on 5-for-15 shooting) off the bench. Bona held a decisive advantage in bench points, 29-9, and outscored UB in the paint, 34-22. LaDarien Griffin tied a career best with three blocks and had another productive outing, adding eight points, six rebounds and two steals.
“I thought Courtney played extremely well for us, bringing his length,” Schmidt said. “I thought LaDarien had a big shot at the end there (a little turnaround jumper at the shot clock buzzer that put Bona up 64-57 with 2:17 remaining).”
— Adams took the time to note how well some of the Bona role players had been faring in his absence.
“It was crazy to see,” he said. “It was just a bunch of things we didn’t know what to expect in the season when I got hurt. (It was) next man up. Zay (freshman Izaiah Brockington) played well; we saw LD (Griffin) do some things he didn’t do. Everybody just stepped up and helped out, and I want to do the same now that I’m back.”