Jalen Adaway wasn’t entirely sure he’d even play.
The junior forward had suffered a “pretty bad” migraine over the previous few days and was “really fatigued.” He was held out of the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team’s afternoon shootaround and, while missing his first start of the season, was very much a question mark at game time.
In the end, and still ailing, Adaway not only mustered the energy to play, he essentially won his team the game.
Adaway made a series of huge plays down the stretch — including the go-ahead three-point play and three big free throws — to lift Bona to a gritty 65-61 win over Duquesne on Saturday inside La Roche’s Kerr Fitness Center, its second such triumph over the Dukes in eight days.
Much like the first meeting, Bona found itself in a low-scoring, defensive-minded matchup … this one remaining so until the final seconds. On this night, it also dealt with foul trouble to a pair of key players, some chippy moments between two hard-nosed squads and a brief injury scare to another starter.
The difference was that strong final segment. With the game tied at 55, Adaway finished a layup, plus the foul, to give the Bonnies a slight edge, one they wouldn’t relinquish, with 2:13 left. His final numbers from there: eight points (3-of-4 at the line), three rebounds, two blocks and another rim-rattling baseline dunk.
“WE JUST knew it was crunch time; I just tried to do what I could to help us come out with a win,” the Miami (Ohio) transfer said of his gutsy finish, “whether it was grabbing a couple of rebounds or just making those foul shots. I just wanted to win, we all just wanted to win, so I tried to do whatever it took.”
Behind Adaway and another staunch defensive showing, Bona (8-1, 6-1) achieved its best overall start since 2000-01 (that team also opened 8-1) and tied the program mark for best Atlantic 10 start (set in 1982-83). It also moved a full two wins ahead of idle UMass for first place in the league standings.
And that performance — Adaway logged his first Bona double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) while battling an illness — wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“He’s a gamer … we wouldn’t have won without him,” said coach Mark Schmidt, whose team has now won six-straight. “He was a question, he wasn’t feeling well and he just showed some character, showed some toughness and made those plays at the end. He made some foul shots, got a rebound and, yeah, he played really, really well for us.”
KYLE Lofton had a team-best 17 points and five assists, collecting a handful of the same kind of tough buckets that helped Bona pull out a 62-48 victory over Duquesne in Game 1. Dominick Welch was critical, adding 14 points (with a trio of treys), nine rebounds and four assists.
With Osun Osunniyi sitting the final 16:15 of the first half due to foul trouble, Jalen Shaw filled in ably, totaling seven big points in the period and standing up the Dukes (4-6, 3-5) physically in a game that called for it.
Once again, though, Bona primarily won with defense and intangibles.
Schmidt’s team held the Dukes to 61 points — the same league-best average it’s allowed for the year — on 37 percent shooting, including a 5-of-23 mark from 3-point range. It occasionally failed to corral Tavian Dunn-Martin, who notched 18 points with three treys, but limited leading scorer Marcus Weathers to 10 and kept the Dukes’ role players from ever truly making an impact.
Bona played unevenly at times. After falling behind 12-4, it went on a furious 17-0 run to take control. After pushing that lead to 10 (29-19), it relented, as Duquesne closed the half on a 13-2 run to turn a large deficit into a 32-31 lead at the break.
But, much as it all year, it clamped down when it needed to most.
“WE DIDN’T shoot the ball great,” Schmidt acknowledged, “but you defend, you rebound. We did a good job, especially in the second half, of taking care of the ball, we made our foul shots when we needed to, and that’s the formula. Hopefully our offense gets going, our shooting gets going, but you still win — the staple of any good program is defense and rebounding, and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”
The Bonnies again got the best of Duquesne — and coach Keith Dambrot, who was jeered by Bona fans, from afar, for the way he went after the officials — having won 10 of the last 11 and 13 of 15 in the series dating to 2015-16. But those victories have mostly been tight in, and around, Pittsburgh (indeed, its previous four were by margins of 7, 3, 2 and 3).
And so it was at Division III La Roche.
Up two with 21 seconds left, Adaway made two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Up 63-61 with 7.9 ticks remaining, Lofton — amid all the physical play and hard fouls — made another two freebies to seal it.
“We dealt with adversity,” Schmidt assessed. “It was a physical game, a lot of pushing and shoving; a typical Atlantic 10 (game), it was just hard-fought. We made the plays when we needed to make big plays, and we showed some mental and physical toughness.”
He added, “It wasn’t a pretty game on either end, for both teams, but we found a way to win. That shows a lot of character, (it) shows a lot of competitiveness. We’ve got some tough guys that, when the offense isn’t going well, they’re defending, they’re rebounding and that’s what you gotta do in this league to win.”