Bulls best Bonnies at Alumni Arena for first time
Evans and Skeete lead Bulls to first victory over Big Four rival in 17 years
Chad Cooper, The Spectrum. Senior guard Josh Freelove added 13 points for UB.
Before Saturday afternoon, the men's basketball team's last victory over St. Bonaventure was in 1996. The Bulls had only beaten the Bonnies twice and had never won against them at Alumni Arena.
This season's team is from in years past. Their style of play brought a new spice to the classic Big Four rivalry. Through outstanding guard play down the stretch, the Bulls (3-2) defeated St. Bonaventure (6-3), 78-73, in front of an Alumni Arena crowd of 4,652.
"We were fortunate," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "We played through a lot of foul issues today. We had our best player sit for 11 minutes to end the first half and then [senior guard Jarod Oldham] picked up his fourth [foul] and we played through that adversity. I think this team has depth, and guys step up and we got good contributions from a number of guys tonight."
Sophomore Jarryn Skeete and freshman Shannon Evans each had a game-high 17 points and senior Josh Freelove had 13 points. All three hit big three-point shots down the stretch to help put the game away.
Hurley said the guards flourished because of the way the Bonnies shut down senior forward Javon McCrea, which opened the door for perimeter shooters to take advantage.
The Bonnies held McCrea in check - particularly in the second half. He had only 10 points and three rebounds and didn't even attempt a field goal in the second half.
But Evans took advantage of his opportunity to run the offense after Oldham was called for his fourth foul early in the second half. Two of Evans' biggest plays were his two 3-pointers, which came late in the game, pulling the Bulls within two points and then tying the game at 69.
"Shannon and I have a lot of confidence in his ability and his energy," Hurley said. "He does it at both ends of the court and he's been doing it since Day One. I trust him and he's going to be a great player in this program."
The game's deciding factor was the Bulls' defensive play in the last eight minutes.
With 7:49 remaining, the Bulls appeared to be spiraling as Hurley was called for a technical foul after disputing a call. The Bulls trailed 64-58 at that point but went on a 20-7 run to end the game. They hit three of their last four three-point shots during that period and hit six of their last 10 to end the game.
The Bulls took control around the 5:31 mark. Trailing 66-60, Freelove and junior forward Will Regan hit back-to-back threes to tie the game.
From there, the Bulls continued to hit threes, taking a 72-69 lead with two minutes left. The defense held and the offense ran the clock long enough to force the Bonnies to stop the clock by fouling.
The Bulls had been nearly perfect from the free-throw line all game - finishing 28 of 32 - and hit their final six free throws to put the game away.
St. Bonaventure lost its leading scorer and point guard - Matthew Wright - midway through the second half when he limped off the court after a turnover. His absence hurt the Bonnies' offense down the stretch and the team struggled to keep up with the Bulls' shooting.
The Bonnies had three players finish with at least 16 points: guard Charlon Kloof (17), forward Marquise Simmons (16) and forward Andell Cumberbatch (16).
The win was the Bulls' third in a row after dropping their first two game.
Buffalo will conclude its Big Four schedule on Wednesday at 8 p.m. against Canisius (4-3). The game will be played at the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo.
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