Bulls blow lead, lose Big Four finale to Canisius
Buffalo can’t hang on to advantage at First Niagara Center
Published: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 23:12
The men’s basketball team never trailed during the first 34 minutes of its game against Canisius on Wednesday night. But once the squad surrendered its advantage, Buffalo was unable to recapture it.
The Bulls’ four-game win streak came to an end at the First Niagara Center on Wednesday. The Griffs (6-3, 2-0 Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference) defeated the Bulls (4-3), 69-55, in front of an estimated 4,700.
“I thought we played well the first 30 minutes, and for large stretches we were able to secure a pretty good lead and have pretty good control of the game,” said UB head coach Bobby Hurley. “Then it slipped away from us.”
Freshman guard Shannon Evans’ two-point field goal gave Buffalo an eight-point lead with 10:54 remaining. The Griffs responded with a 26-4 run to close the game as Buffalo missed 14 of its final 16 shots.
Senior forward Javon McCrea was held scoreless over the final 15 minutes. He finished the game with 13 points and six rebounds. Hurley credited much of this to the Canisius zone defense, but he believes McCrea must be more involved.
“There is a concerted effort to get the ball inside, but the zone defense is particularly designed to prohibit you from throwing the ball inside to a guy like [McCrea],” Hurley said.
Preseason MAAC Player of the Year and Big Four Player of the Year Billy Baron asserted his dominance in the game’s opening minutes.
Despite constant traps, face-to-face defense and double teams, Baron hit four of his first five shots and scored 10 of Canisius’ first 12 points. The remainder of the team shot only 1 for 13 in the first 8:45.
The Bulls opened the game with precision accuracy, hitting three of their first four baskets from three-point range and finishing the first half 4 of 7 from behind the arc. However, Buffalo finished 26 percent from deep for the game.
The struggles continued inside the arc in the closing 20 minutes. After shooting over 50 percent in the first half, the Bulls shot just 33 percent in the second half.
“We struggled late in the game,” Hurley said. “We struggled to hit perimeter shots.”
The Griffs crashed the offensive glass from the opening tip. Canisius had six offensive rebounds in the first five minutes and finished the half with 10. It capitalized on its opportunities with 19 second-chance points, 15 in the first half.
Senior guard Josh Freelove and junior forward Will Regan were the only other Bulls to score in double figures, with 11 and 10, respectively.
Baron finished 8 of 14 with a game-high 23 points.
The Bulls travel to New York City to face Manhattan (6-2, 2-0 MAAC) at the Barclays Center a week from Saturday. Tip is set for 3 p.m. on Dec. 21.