Senior guard Sean Smiley had a flair for the dramatic Saturday against Saint Peter's College. First, he made a poor out-of-bounds pass that led to a turnover and a Nick Leon game-tying 3-pointer with one second left in regulation.
But Smiley capped the back-and-forth contest with his second game-winning basket of the season, extending Buffalo's winning streak and increasing the team's momentum.
With the game tied and 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime, senior guard John Boyer fired a pass to Smiley. Smiley took a couple dribbles to get past his defender, rose, and fired the game-winning shot along the baseline.
Smiley's heroic shot gave Buffalo (16-9, 8-5 Mid-American Conference) its fifth-straight win and a record-setting eighth road win in the narrow 77-75 victory over the Peacocks (15-12, 10-6 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) in an ESPNU BracketBusters contest at the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, N.J.
A key factor in the game was the Bulls' play on the glass. Though they were out-rebounded by the Peacocks 36-35, Buffalo collected 18 offensive rebounds. Senior forward Calvin Betts recorded six offensive rebounds and sophomore forward Titus Robinson added five of his own.
'[We knew that] the outcome could be dictated by how well we performed on the glass,' said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. 'I thought we did a better job in the second half… [Saint Peter's] tried to trap us and move us off of what we like to do offensively, and I think by and large, we were pretty good.'
Excessive turnovers led to a Saint Peter's downfall. The Bulls logged a season-high 13 steals and forced 23 turnovers. Buffalo scored 22 points off turnovers, compared to the 11 converted by the Peacocks.
The Peacocks went 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from the field, 5-for-9 beyond the arc, and 6-for-10 at the line in the first half. The Bulls, on the other hand, struggled coming out of the gate, going just 11-for-31 (35.5 percent), 3-for-11 and 3-for-4 in comparison. Buffalo held the lead one time in the first half and trailed by as much as 11 points. However, a late three-point play by senior point guard John Boyer pulled the Bulls within five to end the half.
The Bulls picked up right where they left off to begin the second half. Buffalo went on a 10-0 run to take a 38-35 lead with 16:38 remaining. The Bulls gained their largest lead of the game by extending their lead to six points a few minutes later.
Saint Peter's utilized a 7-0 run to regain the lead, 47-46, with 10:09 to go. Buffalo mirrored the Saint Peters run with seven unanswered points of its own to take another six-point lead, 53-47. The Bulls held a narrow lead until the final seconds of the game.
With just 20 seconds left, Smiley hit a jumper to put the Bulls up 63-58, but Ryan Bacon landed a quick bucket to bring the Peacocks within three. Saint Peter's would not quit without a fight.
The Bulls only needed to hold onto the ball for eight more seconds to win the game, but the Peacocks forced a turnover and Leon hit the 3-pointer with one second left to tie the game at 63-all and force overtime.
Smiley and the rest of the Bulls knew, once again, that it was anyone's game.
On the ensuing Bulls possession, Smiley went for an open 3-pointer and missed, but senior forward Calvin Betts's offensive rebound gave the Bulls another possession with a fresh shot clock. On the following play, Robinson's layup was blocked out-of-bounds. Witherspoon called a time-out and drew up a play that got Smiley the ball. Smiley hit the shot and sent the Bulls home with their winning streak intact.
'It felt good right away,' Smiley said. 'My eyes were on the basket and it took forever to get there, but if felt good coming off.'
Smiley ended the game with 14 points. Pierce led the team with 22 points and added three steals. Betts earned his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Robinson rounded out the double-figure finishers with 13 points and five rebounds. Boyer added a game-high eight assists and two steals.
The Peacocks were led by Leon's 25 points, followed by Wesley Jenkins with 21 points.
Buffalo resumes conference play on Wednesday night as it travels to Rhodes Arena to take on the Akron Zips (20-8, 10-3 MAC), who are tied for first in the MAC-East. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
For $10, transportation and tickets will be provided to students who want to travel to Ohio to cheer on the Bulls. You can claim your spot on the coach bus in Alumni Arena at the student ticket window.