End of Game: Bonnies lose, 62-51. Worst offensive effort I've seen since, well, a number of those Bills performances in the second half of the season. But Nicholson is for real. They're going to be very good in the coming years if they can get a couple more top prospects to go with him. A real point guard would help.
1:35 left in the game: Just saw Bona's Chris Mathews make a halfhearted effort to challenge a jumper inside the foul line. A sign of a defeated player. The Bonnies have really been outclassed tonight by a seasoned St. Joe's team that seems to be hitting mid-season stride. This is a step back for Bona, which has lost two straight at home after its promising start. They won't beat anybody on the road playing this way, and they'll struggle at home. Fundamentally, there's not much to like. Schmidt is clearly a step up from the previous coach, especially as a recruiter. But his offense leaves a lot to be desired. They need to be honest with themselves and make Nicholson more of a focal point. I don't care if he's a freshman. He's their most polished offensive player in the post. Oh, the Bonnies are 4-for-7 from the foul line. You don't win games if you don't assert yourself inside, draw fouls and get some points the easy way. I've always felt that inferior offensive players don't get many calls.
3:10 left in the game: Nivins scores inside after a botched fastbreak by the Bonnies. An observation: Running a fastbreak is one of the lost arts of college basketball. I don't think a Bona player has made the right pass once all night on the move. Too often, today's players hold on to the ball too long and wind up making some forced shot at the hoop. Whatever happened to giving the ball up quickly, to force the defense to react to the basketball? Maybe I'm getting old.
5:27 left in the game: This thing is beginning to look over. The Hawks are up 58-40 and the Bonnies are showing very little life on offense. Maurice Thomas scores inside on a rare successful setup from one of the guards. It's 58-42 with 4:27 to play. Hard to see Bona making a run the way they've been playing offense.
7:55 left in the second half: Nivins scored in transition and was hacked after a turnover by Hall, who has had a terrible night, to make it 53-40. Biggest lead of the night and Nivins has one foul shot. Hawks coach Phil Martelli has been pretty quiet tonight. He hasn't called anyone a moron, as he did on a memorable night in '04. It's 54-40. Nicholson is 6-for-11 shooting and the rest of the Bonnies are 11-38.
10:12 left in the second half: A quick 5-0 run by the Hawks pushes the lead back to 11 at 47-36. Mark Schmidt calls a timeout to gather his troops, who are not playing very intelligently at either end. St. Joe's is running its offense and getting good perimeter shots and making them. Nicholson hasn't attempted a shot this half. Curious. Get him the ball.
11:59 left in the second half: Media timeout. Bonnies are being outrebounded by 14, 37-23. Nicholson is back in the game. Good idea, Coach.
3:06 left in the second half: The Bonnies get back-to-back three-point shots from Blackburn and Chris Mathews, their top three-point shooter, to get back within four, 38-34. I like the three-point line being pushed back this year. It makes the shot seem like more of an achievement. On his next trip down, Blackburn shoots a fallaway airball from 20 feet. As Bob DiCesare wrote in his feature this morning, you have to learn to accept Blackburn's lesser moments.
16:31 left in second half: The Bonnies struggled early in the second half and fell behind, 35-26. Schmidt went to his bench for three subs, including Ray Blackburn, but the Hawks got a jumper from Idris Hilliard to take a 37-26 lead, forcing Schmidt to call a timeout. That matches St. Joe's biggest lead, which came at 21-10. The Bonnies worked hard to get the deficit down to five by halftime, but have fallen right back into the funk they were in at the game's outset. Nicholson is on the bench, but I don't expect that to last long.
Halftime: St. Joseph's leads, 27-22, after a ragged first half. Andrew Nicholson leads the hosts with 10 points and has been the Bonnies' best player. Bona is fortunate to be down only five after such a poor shooting half. That shows you the value of having a dynamic defensive presence in the low post. Ahmad Nivins, the Hawks' 6-9 senior, has nine points but hasn't dominated by any means.
1:00 left in the first half: The Bonnies finally made a run, with Nicholson leading the way. The 6-9 freshman hit a 15-foot shot and then dunked after getting behind the Joe's defense after setting a high pick. Hall hit a couple of free throws and suddenly, it's 25-22, Hawks. The Bonnies are shooting a miserable 28.1 percent (9-32) from the field. But St. Joseph's isn't doing much better at 31 percent (9-29). It sure helps to have a shot-blocking presence on the back line. And to think, Nicholson is also a good student. He's a chemistry major.
4:45 left in the half: The Bonnies simply cannot buy a hoop. They're 6-for-25 and have missed a couple of point-blank layups. But they are attacking and getting good shots, so if they start to connect, they'll get back in it. Sure enough, Hall scores in side to cut it to 23-16. Nicholson, who already has the fifth-highest one-season block total in school history, is guarding Nivins in the post and doing a nice job of helping out on defense. The kid is pretty polished and fundamental for a freshman. He's hit a couple of hook shots and looked good putting the ball on the floor. They say he's an NBA prospect and I have to agree. In a couple of years, he could be the best player in the A-10. From what I've seen, he's already the best player on St. Bonaventure.
8:23 left in the first half: Bona is 4-for-19 from the field and trailing, 21-10. They've gotten open looks, but can't get shots to fall. Finally, Ray Blackburn hits a jumper that rolls around and in. Maybe they'll get on a roll. St. Joe's turns it over, but Blackburn gets called for a charge on a drive to the hole. An uninspiring effort by the Bonnies thus far.
10:23 left in the first half: Mark Schmidt went to his bench early. At one point, he has five reserves on the floor. Clearly, the Bonnies coach is looking for a spark. Ray Blackburn, the Lackawanna and ECC grad, made a nice feed to the post and forced a turnover. Bona cut the deficit to 16-10, but St. Joe's answered with a three-pointer to make it 19-10 halfway through the opening half.
12:30 left in the first half: Jonathan Hall, Bona's leading scorer, is off to a rough start. Hall failed to convert on a feed from Nicholson early, then missed a dunk. He just threw a ball out of bounds in the half-court set. The Bonnies are being outclassed early. Their students are still out of session, which isn't helping. The crowd is out of the game early. St. Joe's senior center Ahmad Nivins, the pre-season player of the year in the Atlantic 10, has five points early. He beat Nicholson, the second-leading shot blocker in the league, on a power move in the low post. Nicholson is one of the best athletes to come into the Big Four in many years. But as he told me in a phone interview Tuesday, he needs to get stronger. But boy, does he have skills -- and a 7-foot, 6-inch wing span to boot.
15:00 left in the first half: St. Joe's has an 9-4 lead over the Bonnies. The Hawks have been looking to push the ball and have beaten Bona down the floor a couple of times early. Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies' star freshman, scored twice early, once on a tip-in and then on a smooth right-handed hook shot in the lane.