St. Bonaventure In NCAA Tournament For 1st Time Since 2000
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Conference Player of the Year Andrew Nicholson had 26 points,14 rebounds and eight blocked shots and St. Bonaventure won its first Atlantic 10 title by holding off Xavier 67-56 on Sunday.
Da' Quan Cook and Charlon Kloff added nine points apiece for the fourth-seeded Bonnies (20-11), who will be returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000.
This is a rebirth for St. Bonaventure, whose program was embarrassed in 2003 for using an illegal player and then allowing its players to boycott the final two regular season games after the conference suspended the player.
As the clock wound down, players hugged on the court and coach Mark Schmidt walked the bench and high-fived players.
Tu Holloway had 17 points and Mark Lyons added 16 for third-seeded Xavier (21-12).
Nicholson, the 250-pound power forward from Canada, was clearly the difference in this one. The senior hit 7 of 13 shots from the field, all 10 of his free throws and single-handedly prevented Xavier from getting to the basket for most of the game.
Not only did Nicholson dominate inside, he showed a soft touch, hitting two 3-pointers in an early 22-5 run that gave the Bonnies a 16-point lead.
St. Bonaventure built the margin to 41-24 in the opening minutes of the second half, but Xavier, which has been to the last six NCAA tournaments and could make it seven with an at-large bid, made a run.
The Musketeeers outscored St. Bonaventure 21-9 over a 10-minute spurt to get within 45-41 on a three-point play by freshman Dezmine Wells with 10:03 to play.
Demiterius Conger got St. Bonaventure back on track with a spinning drive that turned into a three-point play.
After Wells scored in the lane, the Musketeers had a chance to cut their deficit to two points, but a 3-pointer by Dee Davis hit off the rim and Nicholson eventually made it 50-43 with two free throws with 8:23 to play.
Xavier never got closer than five points the rest of the way as Nicholson added six points down the stretch and Kloof iced the game with four free throws.
The Musketeers struggled from the field, shooting 34 percent (20 of 59), They were 2 of 13 from long range and were outrebounded 42-29.