Bulls run over Panthers for third win of season
Junior forward Auraum Nuiriankh took a shot from three-point range that missed. Undeterred, he instinctively raced toward the basket, flew over everybody around the basket and slammed home his own miss with authority.
It was that type of game for Nuiriankh and the men's basketball team, in a performance that was needed this early in the season.
Led by career games from Nuiriankh and junior forward Javon McCrea, the Bulls (3-7) blew the doors open, shooting a season-best 56 percent from the field en route to defeating Milwaukee (2-6) 72-52 at the Klotsche Center in Milwaukee, Wisc. Wednesday night.
The Bulls wasted no time taking control of the contest, as they jumped to early 9-0 and 11-0 runs, overwhelming the Panthers' defense. It was an impressive road victory, as the Bulls, who led by as many as 27 points, won by the largest margin since they defeated a solid Dayton team 84-55 just over a year ago.
"It was good to see us get closer," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "I thought we had some lapses, but we're closer to having 40 minutes of focus. It's good to get away from home and get some success. Our guys have been improving, but they needed a taste of it for it to sink in. It certainly makes going through the airport a lot better."
After starting off the season slow, Nuiriankh has heated up the last few games. After shooting 66 percent from the field on the road in a close loss to St. Bonaventure (5-2), he continued his hot play on the offensive end, scoring 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field. He backed that up by bringing in 15 rebounds, the most by a Bulls player since 2009. Both marks were career highs for the Baltimore native.
"Auraum played a phenomenal game," Witherspoon said. "He played very well defensively, just a gutsy game. He got gritty and he got into the passing lane; he had a clear command of the game and what we were trying to do and what we needed to do."
After becoming the fourth-fastest player to 1,000 points Saturday night, McCrea added to his already-sensational career Wednesday. His 11 rebounds made him just the seventh player in Buffalo history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. He also scored a career-high 31 points on 11-for-15 shooting on the night, beating up on the Panthers on the low block at will.
"Javon did a really good job at establishing position," Witherspoon said. "I think we have been trying to work on some things to get the court opened up some more. A couple times we got impatient, but I think he did a good job of getting position and getting into the glass as well."
The Bulls put the clamps on Milwaukee on the defensive end and held the Panthers to 34 percent shooting on the contest. Guard Jordan Aaron scored 23 points to lead his team, but he had to work for every shot. He shot 8 for 18 in the contest.
"I thought we got on their shooters for most of the game," Witherspoon said. "I can't say we did that for the entire game, but most of the game, their shooters had to shoot contested three-point shots. Inside, I think we established a presence around the basket."
Freshman guard Jarryn Skeete had his first career start for Buffalo and scored just three points, but made up for the lack of scoring with his all-around play. He added three assists, four rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes of action.
The Bulls look for their first winning streak of the season as they come home to take on their final Big Four rival of the season, Niagara (3-5). First tip for the second game of the Saturday doubleheader is set for 7 p.m.