Bulls-Eye

Men’s basketball squad scores season-high points, bests Central Michigan

By JON GAGNON
On January 31, 2013

  • Junior forward Cameron Downing, who averages just 5.8 points per game in 13.5 minutes per game, exploded for this dunk and 21 points in a win over Central Michigan on Wednesday night. Jovan Malakovich /// The Spectrum

Two players recorded career-high point totals, five scored in double figures and the men's basketball team amassed the most points of its season on Wednesday night.

A 91-73 victory over Central Michigan (9-11, 2-5 Mid-American Conference) in Alumni Arena gave the Bulls (8-13, 3-4 MAC) their third win in the past four games and their largest victory in the MAC this season.

After Buffalo opened a 10-point lead with six minutes to play in the first half, the Chippewas never came within nine points for the remainder of the game.

"Tonight, I thought us having that many guys score and us having 21 assists on 30 field goals was progress," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon.

The barrage of scoring came from a team that had not scored more than 68 points in a single game in conference play. Buffalo's 48 second-half points were the most all season against a Division IA team.

After his worst game in MAC play (10 points in a loss against Akron on Saturday), junior forward Javon McCrea dropped 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds. McCrea racked up that stat line though he did not score in the final 14 minutes of the game. He is now averaging 19.6 points per game in the MAC.

But the stories of the night belonged to backup forward junior Cameron Downing and junior forward Auraum Nuiriankh, who both recorded career-highs in points scored.

"We all knew that they were undersized so we knew that we would have an advantage inside," Downing said. "As long as me and Javon and the rest of the bigs were able to have good nights down low, we were also able to open the floor for the guards."

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Downing scored 21 points in only 23 minutes of action and Nuiriankh had a double-double, notching 18 points (12 for 12 from the foul line), 10 rebounds and five assists.

"I realized [rebounding] would be not just a strong point but something I could really help the team with," Nuiriankh said, after acknowledging his 15-rebound performance in a 72-52 win at Milwaukee on Dec. 5. "Every night, with [McCrea], myself and [Downing], we just try to dominate other teams' frontlines."

The effort from the big men helped the Bulls shoot their best field-goal percentage of the season (57.7 percent) and outrebound the Chippewas 39-22.

The Bulls struggled to find their stroke from three-point range in their opening conference games, making only 10 threes in their first three games (all losses). On Wednesday, they faced a team extremely comfortable from launching it from deep.

"I thought Central posed us with some dilemmas a little bit, in that they came in shooting more threes than anyone else in the league," Witherspoon said. "We were going to have to guard out by the arc and still have enough energy to do what we wanted around the basket."

Buffalo did its damage around the basket and was able to set the tone from long range as well, knocking down 8 of 19 3-pointers and holding the Chippewas to 7-for-29 shooting from downtown. The Bulls have now made 31 threes in their past four games (an average of 7.75 per game).

Five of the eight 3-pointers came from the backcourt. Freshman point guard Jarryn Skeete hit two (he finished with 12 points) and senior Tony Watson hit three (11 points).

Central Michigan's Kyle Randall came into the game fifth in the league in scoring and had a game-high 23 points, but the Bulls were able to hold him to 7-for-16 shooting from the field.

The Bulls will hit the road to take on Western Michigan on Saturday night; tip is set for 7 p.m.

 

Email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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