ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — College basketball diehards have probably never heard of Southern Indiana University. No one could blame them. And that’s because the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles dropped to Division I earlier this academic year. Then, for the first time, Southern Indiana visits Western New York to take on the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on Tuesday.
The game kicks off at the Reilly Center at 7:00 p.m. and will air on ESPN+.
“They have a lot of really good players,” said St. Bonaventure manager Mark Schmidt. “Guys who can shoot the ball and attack the basket. They are really good in the open field. [The Screaming Eagles] we are a really good team, a team where we have to play our A game if we want to win.”
If the Bonnies are to improve to 3-2 in the young season, they will have to defend the 3-point line. Southern Indiana has made 41.8% of attempts from beyond the arc this season.
The Screaming Eagles rank 18th in the country in 3-point shooting, according to KenPom.
It’s not like Southern Indiana played poor defenses, either.
On opening night, the Screaming Eagles lost to Missouri 97 to 90. Despite the loss, Southern Indiana had an impressive Division I debut as the Tigers will put their SEC opponents to the test this winter.
In their home opener, six nights after their loss to Mizzou, the Screaming Eagles beat Southern Illinois, a team with a defense that ranks in the Top 50 nationally, according to KenPom.
Then, as part of the Gotham Classic, Southern Indiana lost to Notre Dame by a dozen on Wednesday. November 16th. Since then, the Eagles have defeated Division III Loras College of Iowa on Friday. November 18th.
Now their 3-point shooters have their sights set on the Bonnies.
“We have to protect in and out first,” Schmidt said when I asked him how his team planned to defend the southern Indiana sharpshooters. “Start inside. It starts with the dribble penetration and holding the ball in front of us. We have to try and keep the ball out of the paint so they can’t drive and kick it out for threes. It’s also transitional defense. We also can’t turn the ball around, so they can’t go out on the break. It’s a lot of different things, but we have to get back on defense and keep the ball above the foul line, so we don’t have many rotations.”
South Indiana’s shooting prowess begins with Trevor Lakes, the 6-foot-8 forward from Lebanon, Indiana. Lakes, a move from Nebraska, had 18 points against Missouri and 21 points against Notre Dame. In those two games alone, Lakes drained 11 of 18 from 3-point range.
Jelani Simmons, a 6-foot-5 senior guard from Columbus, Ohio, leads the team in scoring with an average of 16.8 points per game (PPG). She has scored 26 goals against Missouri and has also made 11 of her 25 3-point attempts thus far.
Daryl Banks III, who had a great defensive game for the Bonnies against Bowling Green, will mostly face Simmons. Both of these guards can shoot and both of these guys have the length to defend the perimeter.
Keep an eye on Banks when Bona defends and watch out for Lakes – he loves to move without a basketball.
Kiyron Powell, who operates inland for southern Indiana, stands 6 feet 10 and weighs 210 pounds. Though he doesn’t weigh as much as the other centers, Powell has already recorded 11 blocks.
Even though Powell is a solid rim protector, Southern Indiana has struggled to defend the paint. Up to this point, the Screaming Eagles have allowed their opponents to make 57.4 percent of their attempts from inside the arc, which ranks 326th nationally, according to KenPom.
Knowing this, expect Chad Venning to start once again for the Bonnies. At 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, Venning can throw his weight inside to either side of the ball. Also, Venning was successful in victory over Bowling Green. He finished with 15 points and, perhaps more importantly, didn’t get in trouble. He will have to continue to play smart and use his feet defensively to stay on the pitch.
Bona will also need to be successful indoors to beat Southern Indiana.
Having Banks score 34 points certainly helps, but the New Jerseyan isn’t going to knock down seven 3-pointers every time he laces up his sneakers. He should keep shooting when open. After all, he averages 21.0 PPG. But Banks also has to try and bring it in to Venning to take advantage of southern Indiana’s lack of size.
Kyrell Luc will have to do the same. Luc, the 5-foot-11 guard who moved to Bona from Holy Cross, has done a good job so far easing the offense. The Dorchester, Massachusetts native is averaging 6.3 assists per game and 15.3 PPG. He uses his athleticism and quickness to dart past defenders and drive inside. Once there, Luc works his magic out of him, as he can knock down a float, give it to Venning or Barry Evans, or find Banks cornering for three.
As in any game, winning the battle of flushes and that of aces is crucial to Bonaventura’s success.
The freshman trio – Evans, Yann Farell and Anouar Mellouk – have done a great job on the glass so far. Each of these three has shown that they can also contribute offensively.
Farell, who scored 16 points at South Dakota State and added 14 against Bowling Green, earned Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors. The 6-foot-6 guard has some serious hitting from distance, and that was on full display in his last two games. He didn’t play much at Canisius due to foul problems.
“Every game this season has been a learning experience and a stepping stone,” Schmidt said of his team’s inexperience. “Every time we are in a different situation, this will help us. We can only do so much in practice. The more we can play, the better off we will be. We came out aggressive and played well at times, but made some inexperienced plays. I thought we had gone one step further [against Bowling Green]. So now we’ll see how many steps we’ve taken when we play Southern Indiana.”
Bona will have his hands full against an underrated team from southern Indiana.
The Screaming Eagles, who play in the Ohio Valley Conference this season, will test these young and inexperienced Bonnies on Tuesday. Lakes and Simmons will find a way to get their points for the Screaming Eagles, but Bona will check the paint on both ends to somewhat limit Southern Indiana’s shooting ability.
I like Banks to have another solid game on defense and Luc finding his way up front. The Bonnies head into Thanksgiving riding a two-game hitting streak, even as this game gets close and uncomfortable down the stretch.
St. Bonaventure 74, South Indiana 70
Jack Milko is currently a graduate student at St. Bonaventure University. He will graduate with a masters degree in sports journalism in May 2023. He also covers the Bonnies for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter @Jack_Milko.
Featured image courtesy of Dan Nelligan, St. Bonaventure ’20.
Jack Milko is a recent graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Born in Rochester, NY, Jack was raised as St. Bonaventure Bonnies f…