Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Sports

March 16, 2012

Bonnies fall short at NCAAs

Florida State beats St. Bonaventure, 66-63.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Charlon Kloof got high enough to clank the ball off the iron for a missed dunk, and it felt like a missed opportunity for the St. Bonaventure.

Blame that miss or failing to get a shot off in the final seconds, but the 14th-seeded Bonnies came up just short Friday in losing 66-63 to Florida State in the NCAA tournament.

Still, just getting here for the first time since 2000 marks a big step for a program that had sunk so low.

“We brought pride and spirit back to our community,” St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt said. “We might be the only school in the country that plays in such a small environment where basketball is everything and it gets people through the wintertime. And you talk to a lot of people, and the Bonnies are back. It’s a great place to live, and it’s because of what our players have done.”

St. Bonaventure suffered through a player eligibility scandal that led to the Bonnies being barred from the league tournament at the end of the 2002-03 season, and players boycotted the final two games. The coach was fired, the president quit, and the chairman of the school’s trustees committed suicide that summer.

These Bonnies (20-12) won their first Atlantic 10 tournament championship and won seven of their last nine games of a season that began with junior Marquise Simmons going down in the opener with a torn right Achilles tendon. Senior guard Michael Davenport also had a season-ending shoulder injury.

“Where we took the program to now, I believe it is a big accomplishment for all of us as a team,” senior Da’Quan Cook said.

Andrew Nicholson scored 20 points and Demitrius Conger added 14 for St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies scored the first seven points of the game, led by as much as 10 in the first half and were up 50-44 midway through the second after missing eight straight shots.

Florida State (25-9) used a 16-2 run to take its first lead with 5:15 left on a 3-pointer by Ian Miller. The Seminoles led as much as 60-52 on a dunk by Okaro White with 2:47 left.

The Bonnies hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:43 to stay close. They had the ball in the closing seconds but couldn’t get a decent look from beyond the arc. Cook had his short jumper blocked by Okaro White, and the Seminoles ran out the clock for a huge sigh of relief.

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton cautioned against thinking his Seminoles took St. Bonaventure lightly. Not with Nicholson, an NBA prospect, on the roster.

“They were well prepared. They’re loaded with talent. They executed very well,” Hamilton said. “We’re very fortunate to come away with the victory. They won their league. Some teams from the Atlantic 10 have done really well in the NCAA tournament.”

Schmidt said he wished he had one last timeout to set up the final play.

“We were right there with them,” Schmidt said. “There’s no negatives about this game. We lost. But we gave a great performance. I am so proud of our guys.”

Luke Loucks had 13 points in Florida State’s first NCAA tournament game in Nashville since 1989. The previous trip didn’t end well; the Seminoles lost as a No. 4 seed to Middle Tennessee.

These Seminoles are seasoned and tested. They beat North Carolina and Duke twice, ending the Blue Devils’ 45-game home winning streak back in January and downing Duke again on their way to their first ACC tournament title.

“You don’t win the ACC tournament with bad players and coaches,” Schmidt said.

St. Bonaventure was backed by a vocal group of fans down from upstate New York, along with a monk in the stands.

Nicholson, the senior physics major, hit his first six shots and four of five from beyond the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds while trying to put the final piece into the rebuilding of this program that hadn’t won a postseason game since the 1995 NIT.

“They were fronting the post so denying the entry, and so we just had to run plays they gave me off the block,” Nicholson said. “I had to step out and shoot.”

The Bonnies looked ready to pull off the upset, carrying a 34-28 lead into halftime. They grabbed a 50-44 lead on a layup by Chris Johnson.

Then the Seminoles showed how they won 15 of 18 heading into this tournament.

Michael Snaer, Florida State’s top scorer, picked up his second foul within the first three minutes and didn’t score a point for the first time this season. He played only 5 minutes in the first half and missed all seven of his shots, including five beyond the arc.

But Bernard James proved to be more than a match inside for Nicholson. He scored 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.

White got the final run started for Florida State with a pair of free throws, and James finished off a missed layup by Loucks with a thundering dunk. Ian Miller hit a 3 with 5:15 left to put Florida State ahead to stay. Loucks added a 3, and White dunked to put the Seminoles up 60-52, with the Bonnies seemingly finished.

Then they came back to set up the frenetic finish. Loucks helped seal the win for FSU by hitting three of his four free throws in the final 37.7 seconds.

The Bonnies led by as much as 22-12 on a 3-pointer by Eric Mosley with 10:27 to go in the first half.

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