Gone in 67 seconds
Bulls fumble lead, game to Bonnies
Junior forward Javon McCrea (12) and the Bulls turned the ball over on their final three possessions. The shaky late play cost them the game, as Buffalo fell to St. Bonaventure, 82-79. Nick Fischetti /// The Spectrum
The men's basketball team had a statement win in its sights: a late three-point lead on the road against a local rival that has tortured the Bulls for years.
Buffalo couldn't get a shot off on four straight possessions, as sloppy play led to the squad's demise.
Despite their best shooting performance of the season, the Bulls (2-7) could not hold on, turning the ball and the game over to St. Bonaventure (4-2) and falling 82-79 at the Reilly Center in Olean, N.Y. on Saturday night.
With 1:07 to go, the Bulls held a three-point (79-76) advantage and had the ball. Bonnies guard Demetrius Conger stole a pass from sophomore forward Will Regan and finished with a dunk. The next possession, after a Buffalo timeout, it was senior guard Tony Watson who lost the ball, as Matthew Wright picked his pocket and finished at the other end.
With the lead now gone, the Bulls tried to hold the ball for one final shot and the win. But junior guard Jarod Oldham was dispossessed of the ball, as Conger once again stole it with eight seconds left and eventually made two free throws for the 82-79 advantage with 1.1 seconds to go.
Watson couldn't hold onto the ball after a last-second pass up court and the ball trickled out of bounds as time expired. The Bonnies faithful, witnesses of a 6-0 run to swing the game in just 67 seconds, erupted in jubilation.
"I don't know if they got rattled. I just know that it wasn't good execution," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "Again, we've said it before: it's guys that are in those spots that hadn't been on the floor in those spots [last year], and there's too much hesitation. We have to work our way through it."
The finish was the culmination of a wild affair, especially in the second half. There were a total of 16 lead changes after halftime alone, as the Bulls and the Bonnies tried unsuccessfully to pull away from each other. Every time one team hit a big bucket, it was answered on the other side of the court.
Buffalo wasted its best offensive performance of the season from beyond the arc, shooting a season-high 54 percent and netting 13 successful long balls. Oldham was especially effective from long range. He made five threes, a career-high. He also posted a new career-best mark in scoring with 20 points to go along with four rebounds and six assists.
Three other players finished in double-digit scoring, including Watson, who sunk four baskets from beyond the arc en route to a 15-point performance. Regan finished with 10 and junior forward Javon McCrea had his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes due to foul trouble.
On the other side of things, the Bulls were unable to stop Conger and the Bonnies' weapons on the offensive end. Conger finished with a team-high 20 points, as four St. Bonaventure players finished the game in double-digit scoring. The Bonnies shot 46 percent on the night.
"I thought it was a tough matchup for us," Witherspoon said. "Conger was the main one, and we tried some different things; we tried some zone ... but we couldn't with that personnel."
It was a tough pill to swallow for a team that played arguably its best basketball of the season. Witherspoon talked about how his young team is working on playing a complete game from start to finish.
"We've got to find a way to control the game and not just play well in it," Witherspoon said. "That's a process."
The Bulls now take to the road for their next matchup, as they head west to Wisconsin to take on Milwaukee (2-5) Wednesday night. Buffalo will attempt to avoid a three-game losing streak. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.
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