UMass (17-6, 6-3 Atlantic 10) returns from a mini-road trip looking to stay perfect at home (11-0), when they host St. Bonaventure (12-8, 5-3 A10) at 7 p.m. EDT Wednesday night at the Mullins Center. (TV: None/Radio: UMass Sports Network)
The Minutemen will look to continue their domination of the Bonnies,as they hold a 39-19 lead dating back to the 1980-81 season. Road teams have the edge recently, with the visiting team winning eight of the past 14 games, including a 78-69 UMass win last season in New York. Senior Anthony Gurley led the Minutemen with 28 points and forward Javorn Farrell poured in 16 points and seven rebounds in the win, as the Minutemen held St. Bonaventure to just 35 percent shooting.
UMass is coming off a two-game road trip where they lost to Rhode Island (81-78 OT) and took down George Washington Saturday (86-75). Junior forward Terrell Vinson led the Minutemen with 21 points and four rebounds and helped UMass shoot a season-high 55.4 percent in the victory.
St. Bonaventure had their three-game winning streak come to an end when St. Louis used a huge second-half to overcome the Bonnies. After leading 38-36 at halftime, the Bonnies couldn't stop the Bilikens as they went on a 21-2 run early in the second half, en route to an 86-62 win. Senior Andrew Nicholson, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, played just 10 minutes for the Bonnies because of constant foul trouble.
The Minutemen have been led by sophomore point guard Chaz Williams all season long. During league play, Williams is fourth in the conference in scoring (17.3 ppg), third in assists (6.1 apg) and he ranks 31st nationally in steals per game (2.1 spg). Williams is surrounded by a bevy of athletic, long wing players, who have fed off the point guard's energy all season long. Sophomore forward Raphiael Puntey may be the player making the biggest strides, as he's averaging 11.8 ppg and a team-high 8.2 rbg, which is good for fourth in the conference.
Nicholson is the clear leader for the Bonnies, as the All-American candidate has earned several All-Conference awards, including a First Team Atlantic 10 selection last year. He leads the team with 15 ppg and seven rebounds and stands within the top ten in the conference in field goal percentage and blocked shots. Junior forward Demetrius Conger is second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.5 rbg). The two forwards have helped St. Bonaventure move all the way to the top in rebounding margin at +4 per game. Outside of their strength on the boards, the Bonnies pride themselves on their defense (63.3 points allowed per game-second in the A10) and free throw shooting (75.7 percent-leads A10).
Prediction: UMass has been fantastic at home all season and they probably need the home court advantage against a team like the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure is crafted a lot like the St. Louis team that UMass defeated two weeks ago at the Mullins Center, except slightly less talented. Another quick start and some solid play from Sean Carter and Terrell Vinson inside against Nicholson and the Minutemen should move to 12-0 at home.
UMass 78, St. Bonaventure 70