OLEAN, N.Y. – St. Bonaventure scored the final five points of the first half and the first nine points of the second half Monday to break open a close game as they went on to a 75-47 victory over Abilene Christian at a rowdy Reilly Center in men's non-conference college basketball action.
The loss drops the Wildcats to 0-2 on their season-opening swing through the Northeast. The Wildcats will wrap up this part of the schedule Wednesday at 6 p.m. when they take on Maryland in College Park, Md. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, improves to 2-0 after wins over South Dakota and ACU.
ACU – which trailed by 25 points at halftime last Saturday in the season-opener at Duquesne – played much better early on in Monday's game as they hung with the Bonnies throughout most of the game's first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats took their first lead in a game as an NCAA Division I program with 15:47 left in the first half when a Julian Edmonson 3-pointer gave the Wildcats a 7-4 lead. The two teams traded the lead for most of the rest of the half until the Bonnies began to pull away in the final two minutes of the half.
After an Edmonson free throw with 1:38 left in the half cut the Bonnies' lead to 28-25, Jordan Gathers hit a jumper to make it 30-25, and then after the Bonnies gathered in a defensive rebound following an Edmonson miss, Gathers hit a straight-on 3-pointer with two seconds left in the half to make it a 33-25 Bonnies lead at the break.
Marquise Simmons opened the half by hitting a layup to push the lead to 10 points for the first time. Matthew Wright then hit a layup and followed that with a three-point play to push the lead to 40-25. Gathers then hit another jumper with 17:26 left to make it a 42-25 game.
Aleksander Milosavljevic – who finished with nine points – hit a layup with 16:47 to play to break the St. Bonaventure run and make it a 42-27 game.
"It was tough (Monday night) against their zone," ACU head coach Joe Golding said. "They're big, long and athletic, and that made it really tough on us. They hit a tough shot at the end of the first half and that gave them some momentum, and then they scored on their first seven possessions of the second half and we couldn't get back in it.
"They got into that zone and we couldn't do anything against it," Golding said. "The looks that we'll get against a zone in January or February just weren't there tonight. But this is part of our learning process."
St. Bonaventure's suffocating backcourt press and trapping front-court defense wouldn't allow the Wildcats to get back into the game. The Bonnies forced 18 turnovers from an ACU team that had just nine turnovers against Duquesne. The Bonnies scored 23 points off those turnovers against just five points for the Wildcats on nine St. Bonaventure turnovers.
The Bonnies' length and depth wore down the Wildcats over the game's final 15 minutes as they took their first lead of more than 20 points with 10:43 left in the game when Charlon Kloof hit a jumper to push the lead to 54-33.
St. Bonaventure out-rebounded ACU, 40-28, and had 18 offensive compared to just 11 for the Wildcats. The Bonnies outscored the Wildcats, 22-5, in second-chance points as they made the most of those offensive rebounds. St. Bonaventure also outscored ACU, 40-16, in the paint and recorded seven blocked shots, four by Youssou Ndoye.
ACU guard LaDarrien Williams led all scorers with 18 points, 12 of them coming in the first half. The Wildcats' point total is their lowest in a game since they scored 49 in a 57-49 loss at West Texas A&M on Feb. 8, 2012.