UB men’s basketball (19-11, 10-7 MAC) defeated Miami(OH) (12-18, 5-12 MAC) 75-69 at Alumni Arena on senior night Tuesday.
In honor of the occasion, head coach Jim Whitesell gave senior forward Gabe Grant the starting nod over sophomore forward Jeenathan Williams. Grant hit 2 3-pointers early in the game, proving he was worthy of the starting spot.
The Bulls had a strong showing in the first half, outplaying the RedHawks on both offense and defense. Grant and Willams led the way in the first half with 8 and 7 points, respectively. Senior guard Davonta Jordan also scored 7 points in a strong first-half showing.
UB had a 14-point lead at one point, dominating the pace of the game and the scoreboard. But late in the first half, Miami junior guard Milos Jovic and sophomore forward Josh Brewer led a comeback to keep the RedHawks in the game. Jovic and sophomore guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands both hit uncontested 3-pointers to bring Miami within 6 at the end of the first half.
Those 3-point baskets proved to be a turning point in the game as the second half produced a close game until the final whistle.
After grabbing just 4 rebounds in the first half, sophomore forward Josh Mballa grabbed 10 rebounds in the second half, solidifying UB’s interior defense while also extending possessions on offense.
While the close contest had the crowd on the edge of their seats, it also contained a scary moment when Jordan went down with an injury. All 3,252 viewers in Alumni Arena went silent as Jordan was helped off the floor by his teammates. Thankfully, Jordan returned to the game later in the second half.
Junior guard Jayvon Graves stepped up in response to Jordan's departure. Graves scored 13 points in the second half, including multiple big shots in the game’s most crucial moments.
“I know we need to execute toward the end, we knew they would battle back,” Graves said after the game. “I just want to step up for our team.”
Graves finished the contest with a game-high 15 points while also bringing down 9 rebounds.
After multiple big defensive stands at the end of the game, the Bulls handled their business at the free-throw line to secure the victory.
Jordan reflected on his time at UB after the game, having played all four years of his collegiate career in Buffalo.
“The teams [have] been great, the coaches have been great, the fans [have] been great,” Jordan said. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere else but here.”
Spending so much time with Jordan throughout the years, Whitesell wanted to make it clear how much he means to the team.
“Davonta is the heart, he’s the blue collar you see out there,” Whitesell said. “He wears it on the sleeve and he gives you everything he’s got day in, day out.”
The victory keeps the Bulls in contention for a first-round bye in the MAC tournament in Cleveland. The Bulls are currently tied in the standings with Ball State, and must defeat Bowling Green Friday night for a chance at a first-round bye.
Finess Dickson contributed to the reporting.
Anthony DeCicco is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at Anthony.DeCicco@ubspectrum.com
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.