BROOKLYN, N.Y. — To get past top-seeded Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, St. Bonaventure just needed a little bit of the Wright stuff.
Senior guard Matthew Wright hit several big 3-pointers in the second half and junior guard Jordan Gathers nailed the game-winner as the Bonnies pulled off a big upset with a 71-68 win over the No. 18 Billikens on Friday in the first of four quarterfinal games at the Barclays Center.
SLU rallied from a five-point deficit to take a two-point lead on forward Dwayne Evans’ wide-open layup off an inbounds play with 1:41 remaining, but Bonaventure scored the next five points, including a corner 3-pointer from Wright to give his team the lead back. Evans tied it 68-68 with 17 seconds remaining on just his fourth 3-pointer all season, setting up Gathers’ big shot.
The junior from Woodland Hills, Calif. took a feed from guard Charlon Kloof at the top of the arc and let fly, hitting nothing but net as the horn sounded.
“Great pass by our senior veteran and captain, and when I let it go, yeah, I knew it was going in,” Gathers said. “It’s every player’s dream to hit that big-time shot.”
Wright went five of eight on 3-pointers and Kloof finished with 22 points to lead all scorers, while junior center Youssou Ndoye added 13 points for the Bonnies (18-14). The three combined to shoot 20 of 30 (66.7 percent) from the floor, while Gathers was just two of seven for his five points.
One 3-pointer by Wright gave the Bonnies their first lead of the game with 9:12 remaining. Another by the Canadian senior less than a minute later put SBU up 57-52, and for the first time in the game a rather large contingent of Saint Louis fans was silenced.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little numb in the second half,” said Wright, who scored 17 after halftime and shot five of seven from beyond the arc over the closing 20 minutes. “Charlon did a great job of finding me in transition, and just to see the ball go to the rim as a shooter, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
A defensive switch by St. Bonaventure to a 1-3-1 zone certainly seemed to play a part in the comeback.
“We couldn’t get our guys in the right positions most of the time for some reason,” Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. “I don’t know what the heck was going on. But we weren’t very aggressive at the right points.
“Their zone bothered us in terms of rhythm. We just didn’t get guys in the right spots in a consistent way.”
Saint Louis (26-6) was led by senior guard Mike McCall with 21 points, while their A-10 first teamer, Evans, had 15 points and eight rebounds.
St. Bonaventure struggled to get scoring in the first half from anybody other than Kloof. The Suriname native surpassed his 11.6 points-per-game average with 14 points in the opening 20 minutes alone, hitting four of his five shots while the rest of his team was six of 19 during that span.
“Wherever he goes, we go,” Wright said. “He basically single-handedly put his team on his shoulders the first half.”
Saint Louis’ halftime lead was 38-28 thanks to a big half by McCall. With the Billikens’ advantage at 20-17 midway through the period following seven straight by Kloof, McCall answered with a big 3-pointer and then a fast-break layup, adding another trey a few minutes later to help his team restore the double-digit advantage it took into the break.
NOTES: Though the schools have been in the same conference for the last nine seasons, this was the first time Saint Louis and St. Bonaventure met in an Atlantic 10 tournament game. … Saint Louis, which won the Atlantic 10 regular season titles in 2012-13 and 2013-14, was also going for back-to-back A-10 tournament championships. The program’s 80 wins in the last three seasons are its most in any such span in school history. …St. Bonaventure G Charlon Kloof, who is in his third year in the program, was born and raised in Suriname but moved to the Netherlands in 2004, and played for that nation in the 2009 and 2010 U-20 European championships. …Saint Bonaventure has won its
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