An extension of his team’s struggles, Kyle Lofton had gotten off to a forgettable start from the field this year.
Through the first seven games, he’d made just 4-of-26 (15 percent) from 3-point range, a disappointing figure given the improvement he’d shown in that category by the end of last season. The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team, from top to bottom, hadn’t been much better, checking in at 29 percent.
Bona hit a couple of big ones on Monday, however.
And the biggest came from its sophomore point guard.
Lofton hit a clutch trifecta off an inbounds play following a timeout with 50 seconds remaining to put the Bonnies up four and essentially seal a 71-64 come-from-behind victory over host Florida Atlantic in the Hall of Fame Bracket championship game of the Boca Raton Beach Classic at FAU Arena on Monday night.
A night after pulling away from San Diego to reach the title contest, Bona overcame plenty of adversity to pull to .500 (4-4) for the first time this season.
It came back from a 17-point first-half deficit to take a five-point lead in the waning minutes before hanging on in the end. It won despite once again losing star center Osun Osunniyi, who had a monster performance Monday, but limped off late in the first half against FAU and never returned. It turned another unsightly half offensively -- Bona trailed 33-25 at the break -- into a second-straight 70-plus point performance.
Its first in-season tournament title since defeating Michigan and Virginia Tech to win the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands in November 2002.
“Our guys believed; they kept on working hard,” coach Mark Schmidt said afterward. “We’ve (said) over and over again to just play hard, and if you play hard, it gives you a chance. We hit some big shots -- Dom hit some big shots, Kyle hit some big shots, Bobby hit some big shots.
“The guys played hard, especially when ‘Shoon went down. We found a way. I’m proud of their effort, and I know they’re proud of the results.”
On this night, another impressive traveling Bona crowd made FAU feel like the road team in its own gym. After a rough first 16 minutes and a first half in which they shot just 36 percent, made only 2-of-6 from 3-point range and committed seven turnovers, the Bonnies eventually gave the SBU faithful something to cheer about.