Following two convincing victories over Miami (OH) and Ball State, UB men’s basketball (9-6) looked to stretch its win streak to three games against Western Michigan (4-12) Friday night.
The Bulls did just that in an 86-54 victory over the Broncos at Alumni Arena.
UB dominated from the opening tip and never looked back, out-playing Western Michigan on both sides of the ball until the final whistle.
The Bulls asserted their dominance early and often, taking a 20-point lead by the end of the first half, a lead that grew to as large as 38 in the second.
“I think the key for us is just getting a good start,” senior guard Jayvon Graves said after the game. “A good start is what helps us and then we lock in on defense, then the offensive will come.”
Both the starters and bench excelled for the Bulls, with four out of five starters scoring double digits. Graves led the varied scoring effort with 16 points while junior forward Josh Mballa scored 14 and grabbed 12 rebounds. Senior forward David Nickelberry and redshirt junior forward Travon Fagan gave the Bulls a boost off the bench, combining for 25 points.
Junior guard Ronaldo Segu also shined in a well-rounded performance, scoring 11 points while dishing five assists, grabbing four rebounds and recording two steals.
Despite the flashy scoring outburst, the Bulls won Friday night’s contest in the trenches. UB dominated the interior, out-rebounding Western Michigan by 17 and out-scoring the Broncos in the paint by 30.
Head coach Jim Whitesell credited ball movement and an emphasis on getting shots close to the rim for the Bulls’ paint dominance.
“We’ve got kids that can drive, they’re strong and when we go off two feet, our guys are good players. When they go off one, we don’t shoot very well,” Whitesell said. “The other thing is once we move it, we get second and third shots.”
UB was originally scheduled to play against Western Michigan on Tuesday, but COVID-19 protocols pushed the game back three days. The confusion and chaos with scheduling throughout the season have given Whitesell and the Bulls a new appreciation for every game they play.
In a season like no other, wins come at a premium because of the unpredictability of schedule changes and COVID-19 test results.
“Every game is huge because you don’t know how many games you're gonna get in with the virus,” Whitesell said. “Be greatly appreciative of the night you have to play. I thought our guys did a good job of that, I thought their energy was good. They share, they really cheer for one another, our enthusiasm on our bench you could see was very apparent. You could tell we’re celebrating just the opportunity to play.”
The impressive victory now has UB at 9-6 with three-straight 20-plus point victories. The Bulls seem to be getting hot at just the right time with the MAC Championship Tournament looming just one month away.
“[The players] can see we’re improving,” Whitesell said. “And along with it, we’re doing more team-oriented things: moving the ball a little bit better, we’re playing better team defense, we just have to keep building off that.”
The Bulls are scheduled to return to action Tuesday night when they hit the road to face Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.