Game Time: 6:00 PM CST | Location: The Arena at NW Florida St College – Niceville, FL | TV: CBS Sports | Series: First Meeting | Game Line: TCU -7.5
TCU (5-0) will have a chance to win the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday night, with only the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (3-1) standing in their way. The Frogs are coming off a tightly contested game with New Mexico, as a last second three from the Lobos was off the mark, preserving the 69-67 win. Kenrich Williams was an absolute monster, scoring 23 points on 16 shots and dominating the boards with a season high 17. Desmond Bane and Jaylen Fisher joined Kenny in double digits, scoring 11 and 10 respectively. The game was close despite the Frogs outshooting the Lobos 47% to 34% and outrebounding them 46 to 35. The New Mexico press forced TCU into 16 turnovers, while the Frogs were only able to force 9 on the other end. The Frogs had opportunities to pull away, but allowed players like Sam Logwood to lead mini-Lobo runs that pulled the game within a few points.
St. Bonaventure also won a close game to make it to the championship, besting a previously undefeated Maryland team by a score of 63-61. Their scoring leaders both came off the bench, with Matt Mobley dropping 16 and Courtney Stockard having 14. Starter Josh Ayeni was also in double figures with 11. The game essentially played as if New Mexico had beaten TCU; the Bonnies won the turnover battle and ultimately the game despite being outshot and outrebounded. The Bonnies are clearly no slouch, as they bested Maryland and two other teams despite missing their best player.
Jaylen Adams is an A-10 player of the year candidate after a season in which he averaged 20.6 points and 6.5 assists per game. However, Adams has not seen action this year with a sprained ankle, and his status remains doubtful for the game against TCU. In his absence, it has been Mobley that has picked up the slack, averaging 22.3 points per game while also being the primary distributor with a 27.3 assist rate (167th in the country). To underscore how dangerous this Bonnies team is, Adams and Mobley combined for more points last season than any returning duo in the nation. And without Adams, it has been Stockard that has picked up the slack. He has a nice story, as he is finally back on the court after missing the past two seasons with a foot injury, and he has filled in as scoring option #2 in Adams’s absence.
The Bonnies may be without another key player, freshman Tshiefu Ngalakulondi (pronunciation help would be much appreciated), who missed the Maryland game. Ngalakulondi is a super athlete who has scored at Bane-level efficiency in the two games he has played. Ayeni leads the frontcourt for the Bonnies, and he is joined in the starting lineup by Nelson Kaputo (a 6’0 point guard who is second on the team in assists), LaDarien Griffin (Ayeni’s frontcourt mate who crashes the boards), and Idris Taqqee (the top defensive player on the Bonnies, doesn’t use a ton of offensive possessions).
The Bonnies are the top team the Frogs have faced to this point, as they don’t have the glaring deficiencies that many of the teams on TCU’s schedule have had thus far. This is a team ranked in the top 100 in both offensive and defensive rating, and actually profiles pretty similarly to TCU on paper. For the Frogs to pull out the win, they will need to play their most complete game of the season.
Three Things to Watch For:
Crash the offensive glass (again)
One of the keys against New Mexico was to crash the offensive glass, and that trend will continue against St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies don’t do a great job on the defensive glass, ranking 210th with a 30.3% opponent oReb rate. The Frogs did a good job with this against the Lobos, and have to exploit the one area in which the Bonnies aren’t very strong.
Win the turnover battle
TCU couldn’t put away New Mexico because of carelessness, mishandling the ball in the post and having a difficult time with the press. The same sloppiness will doom you against a St. Bonaventure team that hounds opponents into turnovers on a quarter of their possessions (20th in the country) while not turning it over themselves (16.2% TO rate ranking 51st). TCU has been okay with turnovers this season in general, but losing the battle 16 to 9 this time will spell disaster.
Keep the offense dynamic
The Bonnies do a great job at every level on defense, from running people off the 3 point line to blocking guys in the paint. It will take a little bit of everything to get the W Saturday night. It’d be nice to see Vladimir Brodziansky have a bounce back game after a rough night against New Mexico, and he has a favorable size matchup against the Bonnies that receive serious minutes. TCU will have to do what they do best, which is follow the hot hand who is finding holes in a solid defense.
The Bonnies will be a tough challenge, and there is little doubt that they believe they can win this game. TCU has allowed big games in the past to the key players for other teams, so it seems likely that Matt Mobley will get his. If TCU can limit the contributions elsewhere, I like their chances in a hard fought game.
The Bonnies are the toughest opponent TCU has faced, but the inverse is also true. Talent like Kenny Hustle, Bane, Vlad, etc. are hard to come by anywhere, much less on teams like Maryland Eastern Shore or Jackson State. If TCU can follow the plan that Niagara had when they beat St. Bonaventure, the Frogs will be celebrating another regular season title Saturday night.
Prediction: TCU 75, St. Bonaventure 70