Brooklyn, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The top team in the Atlantic 10 Conference finally hits the hardwood in the league tournament on Friday, as the 18th- ranked Saint Louis Billikens collide with the Bonnies of St. Bonaventure in quarterfinal action at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Saint Louis, which won the tourney title last season with a 62-56 win over VCU, is 7-7 in this event over the years. At one point during the 2013-14 regular season, the Billikens were one of the hottest teams in college basketball, winning 19 straight decisions, but that all came to an end in late February. Not only did SLU bow to Duquesne unexpectedly, the team lost four straight before closing out with a narrow 64-62 win against UMass on Sunday.
As for the ninth-seeded Bonnies, winners of this tournament two years ago with a 67-56 triumph over Xavier, they have already gotten off on the right foot this time around with an 82-72 win against La Salle yesterday afternoon. With the decision, the program improved to 17-28 in the event.
The Billikens won the only matchup between the teams during the regular season, albeit by just six points at home in the middle of January. As a result, the all-time series now stands at 11-4 in favor of Saint Louis.
The winner today will head to the semifinals on Saturday versus the survivor of the Dayton/Saint Joseph's battle.
St. Bonaventure, which closed out the regular season on a four-game slide, rebounded well with a 10-point victory against the Explorers yesterday in the very first game of the tournament. Except for Matthew Wright who tallied eight points on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor over the course of 37 minutes, every starter finished in double figures for the Bonnies, led by Youssou Ndoye who tallied both 19 points and a team-best 10 rebounds. Marquise Simmons accounted for 15 points and seven boards, six at the offensive end alone, while shooting a near-perfect 7-of-8 from the field, followed by Charlon Kloof and Jordan Gathers with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Oddly enough, the leading scorer for the Bonnies to this point in the season is Wright with his 16.4 ppg, although he is someone who is shooting only 40.9 percent from the floor. When not being caught up in too much foul trouble, Kloof (11.6 ppg) is the one who can keep the offense moving with five assists per outing.
He may have finished second on his own team in scoring, putting up 13.9 ppg behind the 14.0 ppg posted by Dwayne Evans, but the talent and drive that Jordair Jett has brought to every game was more than enough for voters to name him the Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year. Jett, shot only 21.9 percent from 3-point range and a mere 62.4 percent at the free-throw line over the course of 31 games, but it was his 145 assists against 86 turnovers that impressed the most. Jett also led the way on defense with 46 steals, an effort that disrupted plenty of opponents and had an influence over those foes to the extent that they shot just 39.6 percent from the floor and 27.5 percent out on the perimeter. Evans is tops on the glass with 6.4 rpg, but not far behind is Rob Loe who coupled his 5.5 rpg with 10.0 ppg and 40 blocked shots.