The full brunt of this week's powerful winter storm had just begun to batter the state of Rhode Island at 10 p.m. Friday night when the lights at the Newport Marriott flickered a few times and went black.
Ever the optimist, St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt immediately found a silver lining to losing power at the team hotel the night before the Bonnies faced Rhode Island.
"I got to go to bed to earlier," Schmidt quipped. "I didn't have to watch anymore tape."
What was a slight nuisance Friday night became a greater hassle by the time Schmidt and his players awoke Saturday morning because the hotel's backup generator had also failed. All other guests at the hotel had to be evacuated because it had no power, lights, heat, hot water and hot food, not exactly ideal conditions for the Bonnies to prepare for a road game.
Showers had to be brief because the water was frigid. The team's pregame meal consisted of cold cuts and bread. And after digging the team bus out of the snow for two hours to go to shootaround at a nearby prep school, St. Bonaventure discovered that the generator there was also broken, forcing the staff to hold an afternoon walkthrough in an ice-cold ballroom at the team hotel instead.
"You try to make the best of a bad situation," Schmidt said. "It wasn't ideal, but there are people out there who are starving. That's how you have to look at it."
If preparation for Saturday night's game was a bit strange for St. Bonaventure, then the gameday atmosphere at Rhode Island was even more surreal.
The Ryan Center was the only building on campus with power – and that came via a generator. A driving ban in the state had been lifted at 4 p.m., but the stands were very sparsely populated as few fans wanted to risk navigating icy roads to watch a rebuilding Rams team that had won just one game in Atlantic 10 play.
Between the unusual game day preparation and the eerily quiet arena, it was no surprise St. Bonaventure had trouble with Rhode Island. The Rams led by six at halftime and by seven with less than eight minutes to play before the Bonnies began to mount a comeback by raising their intensity level and stringing together defensive stops.
Eric Mosley scored a game-high 21 points including a clinching 3-pointer to extend St. Bonaventure's lead to four with 22 seconds remaining, enabling the Bonnies to eke out a 67-61 victory. It's not a win that will do much for their RPI or earn them a segment on SportsCenter, but it is a performance they can take pride in under the circumstances.
"I'm really proud of them," Schmidt said. "We had some adversity, but as we told the team, we couldn't control what was happening with the hotel and the weather. All we could control was our preparation. We got down early and things didn't look great, but the kids showed toughness. To win on the road in the best conditions is difficult. What those guys did is a tribute to them."
An NCAA tournament team a year ago thanks in part to the brilliance of forward Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure has endured an up-and-down season now that its former star is a member of the Orlando Magic. The Bonnies are 11-11 overall and 4-5 in the Atlantic 10, but they've now won four of six including back-to-back road wins over Temple and St. Joseph's last month.
A February surge into postseason contention will be challenging for St. Bonaventure as a result of the quality of the Atlantic 10 this season, but if nothing else the Bonnies can take solace in this: Tougher opponents than Rhode Island await but they're unlikely to face tougher conditions again this year.