The St. Bonaventure Bonnies and the Niagara Purple Eagles kicked things off in the inaugural Big 4 Classic in Buffalo, NY Saturday afternoon and senior center Youssou Ndoye tallied a double-double in the Bonnies’ 74-59 win over the Purple Eagles.
With the line of 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, Ndoye dominated Niagara.
“Youssou played with some aggression, some passion and that’s what we needed,” Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt said. “We got Youssou going, played him man-to-man and got some really easy baskets inside.”
Coming into the first six or so minutes of the game, however, Niagara went out swinging with an 11-6 lead, keeping Bonas off-balance and off guard for the time being.
“I thought we got off to a sluggish start in the first six to seven minutes of the game,” Schmidt said. “Luckily, we found our way back the rest of the game.”
A commanding start for the Purple Eagles quickly deteriorated with an 11-0 run by Bonas for over five minutes in the 1st half. Bonas never looked back as they kept the lead the rest of the game. The Bonnies closed out the first half with a 35-25 lead over Niagara.
“I thought they (Bonnies) were very good around the basket,” Purple Eagles head coach Chris Casey said. “We came into the game very concerned about their three perimeter guys; they got the best of us to close out this game and Ndoye dominated the entire game.”
The Bonnies finished where they left off at the end of the first half by taking care of Niagara in every way near the basket of the 2nd half.
The Purple Eagles narrowed the Bonnies lead to 10 at one point in the 2nd half but the Bonnies scored the 17 of the next 22 points to bump their lead to 20.
Aside from 3-of-12 from 3-point range and 15 turnovers throughout the game, the Bonnies took advantage of their presence in the paint with 40 points. St. Bonaventure also made the 20 turnovers Niagara committed worthwhile, scoring 24 points off of them and holding the Purple Eagles to 37% from the field.
“The 20 turnovers hurt our chances with competing against them,” Casey said. “They knew how and what to do with the turnovers and gave themselves a easier time to take their lead to a different level.”
Schmidt added that the team condensed their turnover margin from 10 in the first half to 5 in the second half. Ndoye was a big part of that.
“The way Youssou played today and the way he led the team we’re that much better,” Schmidt said. “When we have him inside, it shrinks the defense and provided easier baskets on offense.”
Ndoye’s 23 points in the game is a career-high for the senior, which his 9-of-16 from the field and 5-of-7 from the charity stripe took his performance to a new level.
“These last couple days in practice have been working on my inside precense,” Ndoye said. “In this game, we came together and played well together.”
Ndoye added more praise of his teammates and how his decisiveness was different from previous games. It helped him on his way to executing more towards the basket and giving his teammates a more competitive stride.
“The first two games I played, I wasn’t playing with emotion and didn’t feel like I took my leadership role in the right direction with my teammates,” Ndoye said. “My teammates did a really great job finding me for the basket and I was able to execute from there.”
The Bonnies also shot an impressive 46 percent from the field and 19-of-25 from the line.
Senior guard Andell Cumberbatch, who contributed his 16 points and five rebounds, was satisfied by the offensive effort.
“The biggest thing was that we had to work inside-out.” Cumberbatch said. “That’s what we did, that’s how Youssou and Dion (Wright) got going, and that’s what gave us good looks.”
Junior forward Dion Wright, who also had a good game with 14 points and six rebounds, Schmidt noticed how well his team was coming together.
“We got better as a team today.” Schmidt said. “We executed better both offensively and defensively and, from a young team, you want to see that. And when Youssou plays how he’s capable of playing, how he did today, we’re that much better.”
Niagara forward Ramone Snowden and guard Karonn Davis both had 13 points for the Purple Eagles in their loss.