Tuesday’s First Four matchup between East Region 11-seeds St. Bonaventure and UCLA was considered by some to be the top matchup of the tournament’s first two days, due in large part to the perimeter matchup. With the Bonnies being led by Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, and UCLA having it’s own perimeter stud in Aaron Holiday, it was easy to see why there was so much anticipation.
But in the end Courtney Stockard, who missed the Atlantic 10 semifinal loss to Davidson with a hamstring injury, stole the show in leading the Bonnies to the 65-58 victory.
With the win, the program’s first NCAA tournament victory since 1970, the Bonnies advance to face 6-seed Florida Thursday in Dallas.
On a night that saw both Adams and Mobley struggle offensively, Stockard stepped forward to score 26 points to lead the way. Playing with two big men for much of the game, UCLA struggled to match up with Stockard at the four. Stockard’s effort helped the Bonnies pull out the victory despite Mobley (14 points) and Adams (eight points) combining to shoot 6-for-28 from the field.
And with LaDarien Griffin chipping in with ten points off the bench, the Bonnies had all the production they needed.
UCLA got off to a hot start, jumping out to a 14-7 lead with Holiday either scoring or assisting on 13 of those points. But St. Bonaventure would switch things up defensively, with head coach Mark Schmidt employing multiple zone looks in an attempt to slow things down. The move worked, as UCLA was careless with the basketball and would finish the game with 20 turnovers.
St. Bonaventure, which turned the ball over just six times, converted UCLA’s miscues into 30 points. Holiday was responsible for 10 of those turnovers, and he lost his poise late with some key mistakes before fouling out with 20 points and seven assists. Price Ali added 13 points and Kris Wilkes ten for UCLA, but Thomas Welsh shot just 1-for-5 from the field and finished with two points to go along with 15 rebounds.
St. Bonaventure will need to be sharper offensively if they’re to have a chance of beating Florida. But in taking care of UCLA, this group of Bonnies has accomplished something the program hadn’t done since Bob Lanier was in uniform.