Bulls defeat D-II opponent, earn second win
UB improves to 2-5 with 76-57 home win over Mansfield
Sophomore forward Will Regan led the Bulls with 15 points, tying his career high. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
It hasn't been an easy season thus far for the men's basketball team, but the squad forgot its woes and pounded an inferior opponent on Saturday night.
The game was ugly at the outset, but the Bulls closed the first half on a 27-4 run to pull away from Division II Mansfield University. Buffalo (2-5) defeated the Mountaineers (1-1), 76-57, in front of a crowd of 2,983.
Prior to the win, the young Buffalo squad - which graduated four of its top five scorers from last season - was off to its worst start since the 2000-01 season. Saturday's game was the Bulls' second at home this year (1-1) and first in Alumni Arena since the season opener on Nov. 10.
"[Mansfield] came to win, and they weren't sitting around holding it and milking the clock," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "Any time you play a Division II team, these are guys that are going to think you passed on them or were part of a group of schools that passed on them, and they're going to come in and play hard. And they did."
After turning the ball over 24 times in their last game, the Bulls committed just 11 turnovers Saturday night.
"In these games we've struggled, it wasn't really our opponents as much as we were our opponent in some cases," Witherspoon said.
The undersized Mansfield squad, which plays in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), couldn't contain UB in the post. The Bulls outrebounded Mansfield, 37-26, and have won the battle of the boards in each of their first seven games.
Buffalo outscored the Mountaineers 42-18 in the paint. Mansfield's tallest player is 6-foot-6 and the Bulls took full advantage - junior forward Javon McCrea (14) and sophomore forward Will Regan (15) combined for 29 points.
Regan, a smooth-shooting big man who transferred from Virginia, sat out last season. After some early-season struggles, he has scored 15 points in each of the last two games.
"It's just getting in the system and getting more confidence in terms of moving the ball and what I'm going to see from defenses and things like that," Regan said. "Game by game, I feel like I'm becoming more confident. My teammates have done a good job, too, in terms of helping me be confident and believing in me and getting me the ball. I'm just building game by game.
"[2011-12 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Mitchell Watt] and Javon had good chemistry, and I've tried to learn a little bit from what they used to do and grow from there."
The Bulls had lost three straight (the most recent of which was a 71-64 loss at Canisius Tuesday night) before Saturday night.
With the Bulls down 25-23, UB asserted its will behind a lineup of almost exclusively reserves. While the Bulls struggled with their starting lineup in the game, four of the squad's bench players - senior guard Richie Sebuharara, freshman guard Jarryn Skeete and sophomore forwards Raphell Thomas-Edwards and Xavier Ford - gave the team the spark and defensive intensity it needed to pull away.
Witherspoon went deep into his lineup and spread minutes evenly. The Bulls' bench, which had averaged just eight points over the previous three games, totaled 29 points. Ford, who sat out Buffalo's last game with concussion symptoms, appeared to be 100 percent as he led the bench with nine points and five rebounds.
"We had pretty good energy come off the bench," Witherspoon said. "They got us going and we were able to separate ourselves."
Though Mansfield led 23-21 at one point, Buffalo led 50-29 at the break. Mansfield hung tough in the early going, but the Mountaineers could not stay in stride once the Bulls got running. Buffalo shot 56.8 percent from the field in the first half and 48.4 percent in the game.
"I thought we moved the ball well and that's certainly an area we're working on really hard, to learn the lesson of not beating yourself, and tonight I think we were decent in that area," Witherspoon said.
The Bulls continued to play without the services of their senior leader, shooting guard Tony Watson, who suffered a twisted right ankle in UB's Nov. 16 loss to Western Illinois (3-3). Watson was on the bench in warm-up gear for the third straight game.
"We're still working our way through [finding a rotation], and of course with Tony being out, that obviously makes it a little bit more difficult," Witherspoon said. "We're hoping to get Tony back real soon."
Three Mountaineers scored in double figures, led by Joe Bell's 13. Charles Becoats and Chuck Harper chipped in 10 points apiece.
Mansfield and UB met for the first time since 1989, and the all-time series is now knotted 4-4. UB has won the past four matchups.
Mansfield fell to Big Four school St. Bonaventure (3-1), 104-61, in an exhibition game on Nov. 3 and earned a 100-64 win at Roberts Wesleyan (2-2) in its first regular season game.
The Bulls have one more game at home before they head to Olean to take on the Bonnies. Buffalo will play Temple (2-0) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Last year, the Owls won a heated matchup between the two teams, 87-85 in overtime.
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