ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – Die-hard college basketball players have probably never heard of Southern Indiana University. Nobody could blame them. And that’s because the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles moved to Division I earlier this school year. For the first time, Southern Indiana is visiting western New York to take on the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on Tuesday.
The game begins at 7 p.m. at the Reilly Center and will air on ESPN+.
“They have a bunch of really good players,” said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt. “Guys who can shoot the ball and attack the basket. You’re really good in open court. [The Screaming Eagles] are a really good team, a team where we have to play our A game if we want to win.”
If the Bonnies want to improve to 3:2 in the young season, they have to defend the 3-point line. Southern Indiana has made 41.8% of its attempts from beyond the arc this season.
According to KenPom, the Screaming Eagles rank 18th nationally in 3-point shooting.
It’s also not like Southern Indiana played bad defense.
On opening night, the Screaming Eagles lost to Missouri 97-to-90. Despite the loss, Southern Indiana had an impressive debut in Division I as the Tigers will put SEC opponents to the test this winter.
Six nights after losing to Mizzou, the Screaming Eagles beat Southern Illinois, a team with a defense that ranks in the top 50 nationally according to KenPom, at their home game.
Then, as part of the Gotham Classic, Southern Indiana lost to Notre Dame by a dozen on Wednesday. November 16th. Since then, the Eagles defeated Division III Loras College of Iowa on Friday. Nov 18
Now their 3-point shooters have their sights set on the Bonnies.
“We have to protect from the inside out first,” Schmidt said when I asked him how his team plans to defend the Southern Indiana snipers. “It starts inside. It starts with dribbling and keeping the ball in front of us. We have to try to keep the ball out of color so they can’t drive and throw it out in threes. It is also transitional defense. We can’t turn the ball around either, so they don’t come to the break. It’s a lot of different things, but we have to go back on defense and keep the ball over the foul line, so we don’t have a lot of rotations.
Southern Indiana’s shooting prowess begins with Trevor Lakes, the 6-foot-8 forward from Lebanon, Indiana. Lakes, who came from Nebraska, scored 18 points against Missouri and 21 points against Notre Dame. In those two games alone, Lakes lost 11 of 18 from 3-point range.
Jelani Simmons, a 6-foot-5 senior guard from Columbus, Ohio, leads the team with an average of 16.8 points per game (PPG). He scored 26 against Missouri and has also made 11 of his 25 attempts from 3-pointers so far.
Daryl Banks III, who had a terrific defensive play for the Bonnies against Bowling Green, will primarily face Simmons. These two guards can shoot, and both have the length to defend the perimeter.
Keep an eye on Banks when Bona is defending and pay attention to Lakes – he loves to move around without the basketball.
Kiyron Powell, indoors for southern Indiana, is 6ft 10 and weighs 210 pounds. Although he doesn’t weigh as much as other centers, Powell has already recorded 11 blocks.
Though Powell is a solid rim protector, Southern Indiana struggles to defend the paint. To this point, the Screaming Eagles have allowed their opponents to make 57.4% of their attempts from inside the arc, which KenPom ranks 326th nationally.
Knowing this, expect Chad Venning to get the start for the Bonnies again. At 6ft 10 and 270 pounds, Venning can throw his weight inside on either side of the ball. Additionally, Venning thrived in defeating Bowling Green. He ended up with 15 points and, perhaps most importantly, didn’t get into trouble. He still needs to play smart and use his feet defensively to stay on the pitch.
Bona also needs to be successful inside to beat Southern Indiana.
That Banks scores 34 points certainly helps, but the New Jersey native isn’t going to knock down seven 3-pointers every time he laces up his sneakers. It should continue to fire when open. After all, he averages 21.0 PPG. But Banks must also try to take it to Venning to take advantage of Southern Indiana’s lack of size.
Kyrell Luc needs to do the same. Luc, the 5ft 11 guard who joined Bona from Holy Cross, has done a good job easing the offense so far. A Dorchester, Massachusetts native, he averages 6.3 assists per game and 15.3 PPG. He uses his athleticism and speed to rush past defenders and get inside. Once in, Luc works his magic as he can either knock over a floater, deal it to Venning or Barry Evans, or find Banks who shows up in the corner for three.
As with any game, winning the Battle of Colors and the Battle of Boards is crucial to the success of Bonaventure.
The trio of newcomers – Evans, Yann Farell and Anouar Mellouk – have all done an excellent job on the glass so far. Each of these three has shown that he can also get involved offensively.
Farell, who scored 16 points at South Dakota State and added 14 against Bowling Green, won the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week award. The 6-foot-6 guard has a nice shot from distance and that has been on full display in the last two games. He didn’t play much at Canisius because of bad problems.
“Every game this season has been a learning experience and a stepping stone,” Schmidt said of his team’s inexperience. “Every time we get into a different situation, that helps us. There’s only so much we can do in practice. The more we can play, the better we’ll be. We came out aggressive and played well at times, but we made some inexperienced plays. I thought we took a step forward [against Bowling Green]. So now we’re going to see how many steps we took playing in Southern Indiana.”
Bona will have his hands full against an underrated squad from southern Indiana.
Playing in the Ohio Valley Conference this season, the Screaming Eagles 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 control color on both ends to limit Southern Indiana’s shooting prowess a bit.
I like it when Banks has a solid game back defensively and Luc finds his way offensively. The Bonnies go into Thanksgiving on a two-game winning streak, though that game will be tight and awkward down the track.
74 St. Bonaventure, South Indiana 70
Jack Milko is currently a graduate student at St. Bonaventure University. He will graduate with an MA in Sports Journalism in May 2023. He also reports on the Bonnies for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter @Jack_Milko.
Featured image courtesy of Dan Nelligan, St. Bonaventure ’20.
Jack Milko recently graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Jack hails from Rochester, NY and grew up as a St. Bonaventure Bonnies f…