“This is just a crazy environment — the atmosphere, the noise, everything — I just love it.”
And why wouldn’t he?
In the Bonnies’ stunning 79-72 victory over the No. 15 Dayton Flyers Saturday, he had been Superman in every sense of the word.
He had set the tone in the opening minutes in front of an amped-up, sold-out crowd that was cheering against him and his Bonnie teammates. It took him just over two minutes of play to bury two three-point shots, put Dayton down 10-3 and silence the crowd.
He would end up scoring 31 points, including the game’s final seven when he broke open a 72-72 tie by hitting a pressurized three-pointer with 36.4 seconds left and then adding four straight free throws on a day when he was a perfect 10-for-10 from the line.
Afterward, both head coaches gushed about him.
“That was unbelievable, the way he played,” said UD’s Archie Miller. “He’s one of the best guards I’ve coached against. To do what he was able to do and never come out of the game was incredible. When you have a guard who can do what he did in that environment, he could beat anybody in the country.”
St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt trumpeted the same tune afterward:
“Jay’s just terrific. He controlled the game for us. He shot the ball well. He had six assists and no turnovers. He has a really calming influence on our team. Nothing is really too big for him.”
While the moment may not have been too big, the enormity of what the Bonnies did seemed to make him pause afterward.
When told this was only the second time ever that St. Bonaventure had won at UD Arena and that the last time was 14 years ago, he seemed surprised.
“We did make history today,” he said.
“I don’t think they had lost here (in Atlantic 10 play) in the last two years or something,” he said correctly. “We knew you’re not gonna come in here and blow out the Dayton Flyers. When you come here, you gotta be prepared for a fist fight.”
The 18-7 Bonnies — who had lost to the Flyers, 85-79, back at home on Jan. 19 — were ready to go toe-to-toe.
The Flyers — who came into the game with their highest ranking in 49 years — were not.
They didn’t shoot as well as the Bonnies, were outrebounded, turned the ball over more and at crucial times in the game — especially on Adams’ final three-point dagger — and were soft on defense, something Miller abhors.
Coupled with Wednesday’s loss at Saint Joseph’s, the Flyers lost back-to-back games for the first time in 78 games. They had come into Saturday’s game with the nation’s third longest streak in that area.
Before the game, Schmidt said he had come across that nugget and it had stuck with him:
“I know how tough this place is to play in. I was an assistant at Xavier seven years and we never won here. That’s why I’m so proud of our guys To come into this environment and play the way they did showed a lot of character and mental toughness. Anytime we needed a basket, when it got close we made it.”
When the Flyers did take the lead in the late stages of the game, the Red Scare section was suddenly rocking and a sign was waved back and forth several rows up that said:
“Why so Xeyrius?”
The reference was to Flyer freshman Xeyrius Williams, but the rhyme made for a question UD might not want the answer to on this day.
There are reasons to be serious, even with a 21-5 team that still has a hefty NCAA Tournament resume.
Sure the team will stumble back down toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings and has probably lost a couple of positions in the postseason seedings, but the issues that are most pressing are Kendall Pollard’s health, how Steve McElvene can stay out of foul trouble and in the lineup, and what can they do to get their gritty style back, especially on defense.
Pollard didn’t play again because of what’s said to be a bruised knee.
“Kendall’s not coming back anytime soon from what I gather,” Miller said afterward.
It was thought the Flyers were just resting him as a precaution, so he would be healthy when they get to tournament play, but Miller’s comment gave everyone pause.
The coach also admitted the Flyers are at their best when McElvene is in the lineup. He finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, but was in foul trouble again.
Regardless, the experiment with freshman Sam Miller starting in the post seems to be over.
Miller said McElvene will be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s game at St. Louis.
The think that irked Miller the most afterward is that “at the end of the day, we just weren’t tough enough defensively. And that’s the sad thing about it because we’ve worked so hard to be a good defensive team and program. To not play hard today or, hard enough to win the game, is disappointing.”
He was especially bothered by the fact that Adams had come off a ball screen to hit his big shot and his team hadn’t adjusted enough to defend.
Adams — who leads the Atlantic 10 in three-point shooting accuracy (45.7 percent) and is 12th in the nation — called it the biggest shot of his career.
“Of course. It was against the No 15 team in the country and I had my Aunt Nene in the stands,” he said, grinning. “They drew up a play and asked me to make it. … This is what you live for.”
This is what it was like Saturday to be Superman.