UB Athletics' top 10 moments from March
Men and women’s basketball win championships, Jon Jones among the best moments of March
10) Football holds Pro Day
Twelve former Buffalo football players began their pursuit of a professional career at the next level by participating in UB’s annual Pro Day on March 9 at the ADPro Sports Complex in Orchard Park. Among them was former Bulls quarterback Joe Licata, who holds many UB records, including the record for most passing touchdowns in UB history.
Current NFL players and former Bulls Khalil Mack, Branden Oliver, Naaman Roosevelt and Jacob Schum were also in attendance.
9) Conner named Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP
Junior wing Willie Conner tore up the MAC Tournament this year on both ends of the floor. Conner was one of the Bulls’ most reliable defenders throughout the season and continued his immense defense in Cleveland.
His offensive game is what set him apart as he hit 10 three-pointers in the tournament. He scored more than 20 points in two of the three games and played at least 35 minutes in all three.
8) Track and Field breaks three Outdoor Relay records in one day
At the University of Florida on April 2, three school records fell in relay races. The Buffalo team of Melinda Wheeler, Camaria Long, Corinne Birchard and Amy Shaw ran the women’s distance medley relay in 11:45.27, breaking the old record by over four seconds.
The women’s 4x200 team of Long, Malayah White, Asher Beasley, and Tyra Forbes ran the event in 1:37.46, nearly one second faster than the previous school record. The men’s 4x200 team of Darien Johnson, Mitchell Moore, Craig Howard, and Joshua Gali ran the event in 1:25.43, .01 seconds faster than the previous record.
7) Megan Burns goes all the way to NCAA Championships
Sophomore swimmer Megan Burns advanced all the way to Swimming and Diving NCAA Championships this season. On March 17, she finished 22nd in the 50-yard freestyle. She also placed 29th in the 100-meter freestyle.
6) Three wrestlers advance to NCAA Wrestling Championships
After a few years of lackluster performances that coach John Stutzman referred to as “the dark ages,” the wrestling team made its comeback a nationwide affair this year.
Three wrestlers, freshman Bryan Lantry (133 lbs.), sophomore Colt Cotten (149 lbs.), and sophomore Joe Ariola (184 lbs.) advanced all the way to NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden. Ariola scored a shocking upset over No. 3-ranked Victor Avery of Edinboro on the first day of the tournament.
Freshman Jake Gunning could have been a fourth UB competitor, but he was snubbed for an at-large bid in the heavyweight division. He was the runner-up in the MAC Tournament at 285 lbs.
5) Men’s ice hockey wins NCHA Championship
While most people were watching the men and women’s basketball team work their way through their respective tournaments, the men’s ice hockey club team achieved its first-ever National Collegiate Hockey Association Championship on March 20. The program is in its fourth year of existence. They defeated Penn State 4-2 in the championship game to seal the victory.
4) Women’s basketball wins first-ever MAC Tournament
In a Cinderella run made for March, the women’s basketball team shocked the MAC on their way to winning their first-ever MAC Tournament, which gave them an automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Tournament. Buffalo came into the tournament as a No. 8 seed and even had to win a campus game just to advance to Cleveland.
Buffalo subsequently rolled off three successive upset victories over No. 1 seed Ohio, No. 5 seed Akron and No. 2 seed Central Michigan.
3) Jon Jones finishes fifth at 2016 World Indoor Championships
Former UB National Championship winning shot-putter Jon Jones took a major step toward his goal of qualifying for USA’s 2016 Olympic Track and Field team on March 19. He finished fifth at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships.
His best throw of 20.31-meters was the best of any American.
2) Men’s basketball goes back-to-back
Despite a new coach and overhauled roster, the men’s basketball team was able to repeat as MAC Champions and return to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
It was the first year for head coach Nate Oats, who took over a roster without its star point guard, forward and top recruits.
1) Men and women’s basketball both advance to NCAA Tournament on buzzer-beaters hours apart
March 12 may go down as the single greatest day in the history of UB Athletics. On the same floor at Quicken Loans Arena, mere hours apart, both the men and women’s basketball teams advanced to the NCAA Tournament on buzzer-beaters. Early in the day, sophomore guard Stephanie Reid hit a floater as the clock hit zero in overtime to lift Buffalo over Central Michigan and complete its Cinderella run.
A few hours later, junior wing Blake Hamilton hit a three-pointer with only a couple seconds left on the clock.
Both teams went on to their respective NCAA Tournaments, with the men losing a contested game, 79-72, against No. 3 seed Miami in Rhode Island, while the women were defeated by Ohio State 88-69 on the Buckeyes’ campus.
Mike Akelson is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com