New Look Bonnies Undefeated on the Road

The faces were a lot different the last time Duquesne saw Coach Mark Schmidt's St. Bonaventure squad. His second season's team doesn't need the favorable climes of the Reilly Center for wins. And an SBU frosh has something in common with the Dukes' Eric Evans: he's been the A-10 Rookie of the Week three times though was not named to the league's preseason rookie team either.

Note: Game, at 4:00 p.m. Saturday, can be seen for free on

The Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll had Duquesne finishing in 12th place, St. Bonaventure 13th. Their 10-4 records are a good surprise for the league.

First, let's talk about that freshman, Andrew Nicholson. Duquesne coaches are very familiar with him -- the Dukes were one of the teams recruiting the Ontario native before he chose St. Bonaventure.

The 6-foot-9. 220-pounder, whose started 11 of 14 games, is averaging 12.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. He had nine blocks in the double overtime win at Bucknell, breaking his, and Caswell Cyrus's, record of eight. Those 3.4 bpg are good for fourth place in the nation. He leads SBU with 17 dunks this season.

The teams split last season with Duquesne winning at home, 83-67, and St. Bonaventure capturing game two, 74-59, 10 days later. None of the five who started for SBU in either game will be on the floor for Saturday afternoon's tip. Seniors D'Lancy Carter, a 6-foot-10 juco transfer (6.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg), and 6-foot-7 guard Tyler Benson (5.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg), now come off the bench.

Most of the scoring on last season's 8-22 team came from three seniors: forward Michael Lee and guards Zarryon Fereti and Tyler Relph. All averaged in double figures and accounted for 64.4 percent of the offense.

Also gone are a couple first-year players: 6-foot-8 forward Matt Morgan, who scored 13 points in each of the DU-SBU matches and twice was the A-10 Rookie of the Week, and 6-foot-6 swingman Hillary Haley are now at Winthrop and Maryland-Eastern Shore, respectively.

The Bonnies have seven new guys on the roster along with a redshirt freshman. The starters are a reserve, two D-I transfers, a juco transfer and a freshman (Nicholson).

The starting holdover is 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Malcolm Eleby who is averaging 6.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg and 2.6 apg. The two D-I transfers are 6-foot-4 guard Chris Matthews (11.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg) from Washington State) and 6-foot-9 Maurice Thomas (9.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg 0.3 bpg) from UTEP. The fifth starter and leading scorer is one of three new juco transfers, 6-foot-5 guard Jonathan Hall (14.1 ppg, 6.0 ppg, 3.1 apg). The sixth man is another former j.c. guy, 5-foot-10 point guard Ray Blackburn (10.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.4 apg).

    Note: The other player from a two-year school, 6-foot-4 guard Lewis Leonard, is taking a redshirt this season. Decision was announced on Tuesday.

The Bonnies are undefeated (6-0) on the road where they have led for all but 23 minutes, 32 seconds out of a possible 255 minutes played.

Two losses came at home to Mississippi State and Niagara, with the other pair on neutral courts: to Buffalo-area rival Canisius at the HSBC Arena and to Delaware at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) during the Garden State Challenge.

The players to pay attention to are Hall, Nicholson, Matthews and Blackburn:

  • All four are in double digits scoring
  • Thomas, Hall and Nicholson average at least 6.0 rpg
  • Blackburn is dishing out 3.4 assists per contest
  • Nicholson is shooting 60.7 percent from the floor
  • Matthews is 35.3% beyond the arc.

But with this team, is seems there's always one bench guy who does a job against the Dukes. My pick is 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman big forward Da'Quan Cook. Averaging 12.3 minutes, he could see more than that average if either Nicholson or Thomas gets in foul trouble.

Finally, the Reilly Center -- one of the most difficult places for opposing teams to play. Its noisy and the fans are right on the court. One thing may hold the crowd down-- school doesn't start for another week. But there are lot of alum in the area and the Dukes are a top rival.

This season, attendance is averaging 3,979 - just under 70 percent capacity - more than enough to fill the place with noise. Weather will be in the 20s with light snow - "2.41 inches of snow are expected." (That would incapacitate the Baltimore-DC area and rid the stores of milk and toilet paper!)

The early line is Bonnies by one point Dukes by one point, a close game. (FYI-Steelers are six point favorites.)

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