Guard Jaylen Adams figures St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt can save his breath when informing his players they’ve not accomplished anything just yet.
The Bonnies leading scorer requires no reminder of how easily a mid-major program’s third consecutive 20-win season that includes victories over Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont and Syracuse can be rendered moot once the NCAA Tournament selection committee determines its brackets next month.
“(Schmidt) does a good job of reminding us, but I don’t even think it’s something that he really has to do,” Adams said by phone Sunday, two days after a stunning 77-74 home win over then-16th-ranked Rhode Island. “We can’t forget what happened.”
He is referring to the disappointment stemming from 2015-16, Adams’ sophomore season, when the Bonnies went 22-9 and won a share of the A-10 regular-season title with a 14-4 record, only to be relegated to the National Invitational Tournament.
Adams, who returned for his senior year after testing his NBA draft options last spring, and the Bonnies (20-6, 10-4 A-10) are taking nothing for granted this time around.
“It’s definitely got our confidence level real high right now, but at the same time we understand that we’re not done,” Adams said. “This is a big win, but it was just another step in the path.”
Beating Rhode Island, and ending the Rams’ 16-game winning streak, thrust the Bonnies back into the tournament conversation.
In preparing to host Duquesne (15-12, 6-8) on Wednesday, St. Bonaventure has won a school-record eight straight conference games and is once again attracting votes in the national polls.
The surge comes after the Bonnies’ low point of the season in which they lost four consecutive road games — including an 87-73 loss at Rhode Island — during a 1-4 stretch from Jan. 3-19.
Schmidt called it premature to call the victory over the Rams a “must-win.” He did acknowledge it provided his team a boost in terms of confidence and in the conference standings in which the top four teams advance directly to the quarterfinal round of the A-10 tournament.
With four games remaining, the Bonnies are tied for second with Davidson, and have a two-win edge over fourth-place St. Louis.
What stood out in beating Rhode Island was how the Bonnies clamped down on defense in forcing the Rams to commit a season-high 17 turnovers and didn’t wilt on offense of a game that featured 21 lead changes, including three in the final minute.
Just as impressive was St. Bonaventure’s ability to overcome one of Adams’ worst offensive performances of the season. Having scored 40 points in back-to-back games earlier this month, Adams finished 2 of 12 for 10 points against Rhode Island.
Fellow senior guard Matt Mobley stepped up by scoring 26, while junior forward LaDarien Griffin scored 14, including the go-ahead basket off of one of Adams’ team-best eight assists.
Adams, who now ranks fourth among A-10 scorers in averaging 20 points per game, credited his teammates for making a difference.
“I think that’s what made the win so special, just that so many people stepped up,” Adams said. “The fact that we could get a win of that magnitude with me shooting so poorly from the floor shows how good of a team we can be.”
Schmidt called it a valuable lesson in how his players responded.
“Going into the game, if you told me Jay was going to shoot 2 for 12, as a coach you’re thinking: ‘Oh, my god, we’re going to be in real trouble,’” he said. “But we found a way.”
What the Bonnies can’t afford is a letdown.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry than just beating Rhode Island,” Schmidt said. “I think our guys understand that. There’s a sense of urgency.”
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