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2024 A-10 Tournament: 8 Lessons in 8 Games



Across Days 2 and 3 of the 2024 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship, Chaos reigned supreme. With physical final stretches, a double overtime game, and 4 top seeds taken down in the Quarterfinals, this year’s A-10 Tournament has already set a high bar for three more games on Saturday and Sunday.


After 8 Games on Wednesday and Thursday, what have we learned from the first half of this year’s tourney, and how can we take those key lessons into the weekend and beyond?


Wednesday-Second Round


Game 4: St. Joseph’s 65, George Mason 57

What we learned: The Hawks’ backcourt is DEEP


The Hawks came out HOT in the opening game of day 2, quickly building a lead that they would never relinquish as Lynn Greer and Cameron Brown dropped 13 and 16, respectively, on the Patriots. Early in the second half, the Hawks would establish their largest lead of the day at 15, and while Mason would lead some impressive runs late to get within as little as 3, Rasheer Fleming and Erik Reynolds would seal the win at the line. 


“It’s a time of year that nobody wants to go home,” Brown said after the win. “Both teams are going to play hard, and guys just got to make plays. Everybody on the team, we all trust each other.”


Game 5: VCU 69, Fordham 62

What we learned: Versatility wins tournament games


The first half between VCU and Fordham was a shootout. In the first 20 minutes of play, both teams shot a combined 11-23 from beyond the arc. Fordham’s Kyle Rose led the way from 3-point land, hitting 3 of his 4 deep shots en route to 13 first half points and a 38-37 Fordham lead at the break. Scoring down low was impressive all around as well, with VCU’s Kuany Kuany going 3-3 inside in the first half. 


Both teams shot at a high clip in the second until the 8:41 mark, where VCU would not hit another field goal in the game. Luckily for the Rams from Richmond, their clamp down defense would come up huge, as Fordham hit their last field goal at the 6:26 mark. With fouls galore in the final minutes, VCU would come up big at the line, hitting 17 out of 23 free throws in the second half alone. 


Following the game, VCU’s Max Shulga admitted that he did not even notice both teams’ late slumps from the field, focusing instead on winning at the line.


“I didn’t even notice that neither team scored [from the field] in the last six minutes,” Shulga said. “I think [we were] just taking it one possession at a time and getting the best out of every possession, then getting stops and being aggressive on the other end.”


Shulga finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds.


Game 6: St. Bonaventure 75, La Salle 73

What we learned: Punctuate opposing runs


The Bonnies played a commendable first half against the Explorers on Wednesday, shooting 5-9 from beyond the arc to hold a 42-34 lead at the break. Defensively, Bonaventure did a great job limiting the impact of La Salle Stars Jhamir Brickus and Khalil Brantley, holding the Explorers guards to a combined 3-10 from the field in the first.


However, as the second half got underway, La Salle embarked on a 10-point tear through the under-12 media timeout. Down 55-53, the Bonnies would respond with 5 straight points of their own, paving the way for both teams to trade runs of 3,4, and even 5 points for the rest of the game. Down 75-73, Dae’Shon Sheppard had a huge opportunity to send the game to OT after catching a missed Brickus 3, but missed the dunk as time expired.


While runs like La Salle’s are expected in elimination games, Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt assured the press that his team is prepared for any challenges that come the Bonnies way.


“It’s the 30th game of the year. I’m not sure we’re going to fix that [letting up runs],” Schmidt said. “But I thought we hung in there. We’ve had a lot of practice at it this year because we’ve gone through those lulls. But I thought we recovered. We made some shots when we needed to make shots.”



Game 7: Duquesne 83, Saint Louis 73

What we learned: A new era dawns in Saint Louis


In the final game of Round 2, the Duquesne Dukes entered the tournament with a dominant 10-point victory over Saint Louis behind 20 points from Jimmy Clark. With a 3-pointer from Clark in the opening 2-minutes, Duquesne would establish a lead that they held for the remaining 38:31 of the game. While Billikens stars Gibson Jimerson and Cian Medley would put up an impressive 22 and 15 respectively, Saint Louis would never cut the deficit to less than 4 in the second half. 


Minutes after the game, Martin Kilcoyne of Fox-2 St. Louis reported that SLU will be parting ways with Travis Ford after 8 seasons. Saint Louis athletics later confirmed Ford’s departure that same evening. Ford ends his tenure at Saint Louis with a W-L record of 146-109. While Ford did not address these reports directly, he did take time to reflect on his tenure with the Billikens.


“I’m not going to get into it a whole lot right now, but I will say I’ve loved my time in Saint Louis, absolutely loved it,” Ford said. “My kids called it home. It’s maybe where I call home. And the fans have been tremendous. I love the fan base.”


According to Stu Durando of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Saint Louis University is already in touch with a search firm to find Ford’s replacement. 


Thursday-Quarterfinals


Game 8: Saint Joseph’s 66, Richmond 61

What we learned: Don’t let Erik Reynolds get hot.


Early in the second half, Richmond’s Neal Quinn rattled off two phenomenal plays to help put his Spiders up 38-30. After hitting a big second-chance 3-pointer, Quinn spun over Rasheer Fleming for a successful hook shot. As he got back on defense, Quinn threw his arms up in the air to celebrate the Spiders’ 8-point lead. 


At this point in the game, SJU’s Erik Reynolds had 15 points. He would go on to score 15 more, finishing the game with 30. 7-10 from the field in the second half, including 2-5 from deep, Reynolds’ 17 second half points fueled a massive push to take down the Conference Regular Season Co-Champs. Teammates Cameron Brown and Xzayvier Brown came up clutch as well with 8 and 7 respectively. Cameron Brown’s and-1 bucket to put the Hawks up 61-57 was huge in locking in the 5-point win for the Hawks.


According to Hawks head coach Billy Lange, the trust he has in Reynolds’ offensive abilities is a major driving force in SJU’s success.


“Most of the time, you think the ball is going in [with] every shot he takes,” Lange said. “It’s pretty fun to watch.”


Thursday’s win against Richmond marked the 7th 30-point game in Reynolds’ career.


Game 9: VCU 73, UMass 59

What we learned: Great teams can reach deep


In a win over UMass that saw VCU lead for over 30 minutes, the Rams ran 10 deep. With 21 minutes off the bench, Bamisile led all VCU scorers with 18 points off of 6-9 shooting. As UMass tried to close the gap in the second half, Bamisile hit several big shots to keep the Minutemen well out of reach.


While VCU would hold UMass scoreless in the last 4:24, the Rams would not repeat their drought from the field during the Fordham game. Bamisile would score the final field goal of the game, a layup with 2:20 remaining to put VCU up 8. According to Bamisile, VCU’s offensive spark compared to the day before was due to their ball movement and increased confidence when attacking the hoop. 


“I think yesterday we got a little bit stagnant,” Bamisile explained. “Today, we talked about it, we watched some film, and we made sure we were attacking it [the hoop], getting it [the ball] to the middle, and then when we had lanes to drive, we would drive versus just kind of swinging it around.”


Game 10: St. Bonaventure 75, Loyola 74 in Double Overtime

What we learned: Experience is key in crunch time


At A-10 Media Day in the fall, Coach Schmidt talked about the importance of experience in building a successful mid-major program, both on and off the court.


“In today’s game, you can’t win young,” Coach Schmidt said. “You’ve got to have a veteran team. You may disagree or agree with the portal or the NIL stuff, but it is here to stay. If you don’t adjust, you’re going to die."


In a double-overtime win over the Loyola Chicago Ramblers, Coach Schmidt’s experience, as well as that of his players, came up big. Nearly three hours into Game 10 of the tournament, the Bonies and Ramblers were locked in a back-and-forth stalemate. Combine the on-court action with the loudest and largest showing of fans in the tournament thus far (including the presence of Loyola super fan Sister Jean), and this Quarterfinal matchup had already earned its place among the greatest games in recent A-10 history. 


With 13 seconds remaining, down 2, Bonaventure’s Daryl Banks heaved up a shot on the right wing, drawing a foul from Miles Rubin. Banks would hit all 3 free throws, locking in the 1-point win for St. Bonaventure. In the post game presser, Coach Schmidt talked about his own experience, as well as his veteran talent, which helped push the Bonnies to their latest upset win.


“I’ve been there before,” Coach Schmidt said. “As a young coach, you may panic a little bit, but when you have good players, it makes me look much better. We have a veteran team, even though they played in our system for only one or two years. All those guys have been in tough situations, pressure situations. I’m lucky to have those guys out there producing.”


Before joining St. Bonaventure in 2022, Daryl Banks was a member of the Saint Peter’s Peacocks for three seasons, averaging 13.5 points per game across the Peacocks Elite 8 run.


Game 11: Duquesne 65, Dayton 57

What we learned: Anybody can beat anybody


As Duquesne and Dayton warmed up for the final quarterfinal game of the night, a noticeable aura hung in the air of the Barclays Center. With seeds 1, 2, and 4 all eliminated earlier in the round, could Duquesne pull off the 4th straight upset against the AP-ranked Dayton Flyers? 


As the first half opened, the Dukes put their best foot forward, leading the Flyers 30-28 at halftime. A well-spread scoring from Duquesne saw Jimmy Clark again lead the way with 7 first half points, but Dayton’s Nate Santos was a major early threat from deep, hitting big shots to stop two potential early Duquesne runs. 


After a limited first half, 2024 A-10 Co-Player of the Year DaRon Holmes exploded in the second half for 21 points. 10 of those points came from the free throw line as the junior forward fought through contact nearly every time he had the ball. While the Dukes could not stop Holmes in the second, no other Flyer scored more than 3 points in the period, allowing Duquesne to come up with the 8-point win.


Duquesne’s win over Dayton was the final leg of a historic night in the Atlantic 10, with all 4 top seeds failing to advance to the semifinals. Despite the perceived unlikelihood of this occurrence, Duquesne head coach Keith Dambrot emphasized the parity of this league in his post game presser.


“I’m surprised that all 4 of them lost, but not really,” Dambrot admitted. “All along [this season], I couldn’t tell who the best team in the league was. I thought it was Dayton, because of the resume in the preseason [non-conference play]. They beat more good teams in the preseason [non-conference] than anybody else, but they had their struggles along the way as well.”


Despite the loss, Dayton is still considered by most experts to have secured an at-large bid to this year’s NCAA tournament.


 

Atlantic 10 Semifinals Schedule

1 PM- Saint Joe's vs. VCU


3:30 PM- St. Bonaventure vs. Duquesne

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