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St. Bonaventure snaps UB Bulls’ three-game winning streak

Bonnies defeat Buffalo 60-58 in Big 4 matchup

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The men’s basketball team didn’t exactly kickoff its hardest week of the season in good fashion.

Head coach Nate Oats was the first person to say so. He’s confused how his Bulls (4-3) even managed to stay in their game Wednesday night, a 60-58 loss against Big 4 opponent St. Bonaventure (3-3) in a packed Alumni Arena.

“Our offense has been a struggle early in the year,” Oats said. “A lot of guys are not moving the ball, going one-on-one. We got to the line, but missing 13 … that’s the game.”

A dismal shooting performance from both the line and three-point range led to the loss for the Bulls, which snaps Buffalo’s three-game winning streak. The Bulls will now head into their toughest stretch of the nonconference schedule with road games against two of the top-10 teams in the country, in No. 7 Duke and No. 5 Iowa State (5-0).

Despite Buffalo’s subpar play, but it was still a close game in the final minutes of the night.

Buffalo received a jolt of momentum from an unexpected player – freshman forward Ikenna Smart. Smart helped Buffalo tie the game at 58 after a breakaway dunk, steal and drawing a charge.

After a pair of free throws from junior forward/guard Rodell Wigginton, the game was tied at 58 with 37 seconds remaining.

But with 10 seconds left in regulation, Bonnies guard Marcus Posley hit a jumper from the top of the paint to take a 2-point lead. Sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden couldn’t make a last second shot from inside the paint.

Buffalo’s offense was predicated on getting to the line in the first half. The Bulls got St. Bonaventure in foul trouble early and were aggressive in attacking the basket. In total, the Bulls had 18 free throw attempts in the first half and drained 11 of them.

Buffalo’s free throws early helped offensively, but the Bulls finished with 13 missed free throws (19 of 32) in a 2-point loss. The Bulls also shot just one of 13 from beyond the arc. Oats cited poor shot selection as a reason for the loss.

“We got some young guys in the program who I thought knew what a good shot was,” Oats said. “I thought they figured it out and apparently we’re back at ground zero again. We have to work on what’s a bad shot, what’s a contested shot and getting that extra pass on offense. It was bad out there tonight.”

Wigginton finished with a double-double – a team-high 16 points, along with 10 rebounds and two assists. Sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden had 12 points and three steals, while junior wing Blake Hamilton had 10 points, three rebounds and the team’s lone three-point make.

Bonnies forward Dion Wright scored 26 points on 12-of-19 shooting, which gave Buffalo’s interior defense fits throughout the night. Oats said he’s glad he doesn’t have to play Wright anymore, as Wright has had two successful games against the Bulls the past two seasons.

Oats noted Smart, who is averaging just 2.9 points per game, isn’t shaping up to be a dominant presence in the post on the offense or defense. He also said Buffalo needs a low-man presence to throw the ball up to get a foul or an easy bucket like it had the past two seasons in former Mid-American Conference Players of the Year Javon McCrea and Justin Moss.

“The good thing is that about basketball is that you can’t dwell on your loss,” Oats said. “We’re going to come in tomorrow and address what needs to get better. We need to get better every game and we didn’t do that tonight. But with Duke, like Kentucky and Wisconsin, we might play well and still not come out with the win, but we have to play well. At the end of the next two games, we have to be better than we were tonight.”

The Bulls will travel to Durham, North Carolina to face No. 7 Duke (7-1) at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday. Tipoff will be set for 5:15 p.m. and the game will be aired nationally on ESPN2.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter.


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