Men's Basketball Splits Opening Weekend's Games
The Definition of Balance: 12 Bulls Score vs. CSU
It is amazing what 48 hours can do for a team's psyche. On Friday night the UB men's basketball team was left collecting their thoughts in the aftermath of a bad loss to Cornell. Then, on early Sunday evening, Buffalo was left thinking how to sustain the success of their first win.
With an obvious need for improvement following the team's loss Friday, Buffalo (1-1) came out of the gates Sunday against the Chicago Sate Cougars (0-1) with a newfound approach that would eventually carry them to a 84-53 whooping before an announced crowd of 1,276.
"It's good to get a win, and I guess our defense was a little bit better. It was good to have a total team effort," said UB Head Coach Reggie Witherspoon. "We concentrated 40 minutes on playing good defense, and we take pride on our ability to play good defense."
Every single UB player that attempted a shot scored for Buffalo, which had its most balanced team effort in a long time.
Buffalo jumped the gun quickly, similar to way they did against Cornell in opening up a quick 5-2 lead, but the difference Sunday was they were able to sustain the lead and then build on it.
Freshman guard Calvin Cage and sophomore Mark Bortz hit three pointers on consecutive possessions to open up a 18-10 lead that Buffalo would continue to add to as the half progressed.
Two separate runs sparked the Bulls, the first a seven point burst that extended their lead to 16 at 30-14. The second run blew the game wide open for Buffalo at the end of the half as it gave them a 25-point cushion. They went into halftime cruising 45-19.
"They shot the ball a lot better than the tape we saw with Cornell," said Chicago State Head Coach Bo Ellis. "We gave them second chance points early, then they started making some shots, they got their confidence, and then they got on a roll."
Buffalo came into the second half with a lot more confidence than at the start of the game. Their emotions were highlighted by an explosive dunk by Clement Smith three minutes into the half. They maintained their composure and carried the momentum of the first half to the sound of the final buzzer.
Buffalo's interior defense improved tremendously from their first game as they held the Cougars to 30.4 percent shooting in the first half and just under 40 percent for the game. The Bulls outscored Chicago State 36-24 in the paint and won the rebound battle as well 40-37.
Four players finished in double figures for the Bulls who brought a balanced attack against the Cougars. They were led by freshman B.J. Walker who finished with 12 points, and he was complimented nicely by Jason Bird, Bortz and freshman Roderick Middleton, who all chipped in with 11 points apiece.
"My role is to make sure the guys are in their positions and that we reverse a little more," said Turner Battle. "That's what we talked about in practice, to get some reverses and make the defense work. Eventually we'll get a duck in or wide open jump shot."
Buffalo is Left Singing the Blues after Opening Loss to Cornell
Dismal shooting, poor interior defense, and even worse rebounding sank UB in the home opener Friday night against Cornell at Alumni Arena in front of a mass of Bulls fans dressed in blue.
Unfortunately, the color blue would also resemble the Bulls' mood after the game as they fell to the Big Red 78-72 before 4,131 fans.
"They delivered the best opening statement on us in the history of basketball in the first half," said Witherspoon. "They kicked our butts, and I'm really not happy with anything right now."
It appeared Buffalo was in synch early as Daniel Gilbert quickly drew first blood with a three pointer. Then, 24 seconds later, Bird stole the ball and passed to Gilbert who put up a lay up to stake Buffalo to an early 5-0 lead.
That was the last time for a while that Buffalo had something to cheer about as Cornell quickly rebounded and opened up a 10-6 lead with 15:05 left on the clock. Cornell would never look back.
Buffalo came within one point at 12-11 but Cornell immediately responded with an 11-0 run that seemed to sink the Bulls' spirits. They never recovered, as the two teams traded baskets for much the remainder of the half, and Buffalo went into the midway point trailing Cornell 50-34.
The Bulls' poor interior defense and rebounding was badly exposed as sophomore center Eric Taylor dominated the Bulls inside the paint with ease. He went a perfect 10 for 10 from the field with a game-high 22 points and seven rebounds in the first half alone. He would finish with a personal best 30 points hitting on an amazing 14-16 field goals.
"To them his name was Bill Walton," said Witherspoon. "For him to have the numbers he did at halftime, he was like the greatest player in college basketball. We did a poor job on him."
As a team Cornell shot 74 percent in the first half, compared to a miserable 39 percent for UB, including only 3-13 from three-point land.
The Bulls came out in the second half much like they did at the start of the contest, with energy and up-tempo attitudes. Gilbert once again opened the scoring for Buffalo with a short jump shot, which was soon countered by Cornell, as Taylor made another basket.
About a minute and a half later, Gilbert attempted a three, which was rebounded by Smith who made a nifty move and dunked it home for UB, bringing the deficit to within 14. That riled up the crowd, and it appeared a momentum shift was in full swing.
This was not the case, however, as Buffalo could not sustain any consistency on either end of the floor and failed to establish any momentum on offense for any prolonged period.
The closest the Bulls were to making this a contest came after a series of misses by the Big Red lead to the Bulls pulling within 10 at 61-51 with 7:55 left on the clock.
"I think as a team we didn't play as well as were supposed to," said Battle, who finished with a team high 19 points for Buffalo. "We did not communicate as a team. It is more controlled this year (for me) than last years running the offense."