After falling to Ohio in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game and failing to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the National Invitational Tournament was UB’s chance at redemption.
The No. 4 seed Bulls could not make the most of the opportunity, falling to No. 1 seed Colorado State 75-73 in the first round of the NIT.
Four Bulls scored double-digits, led by junior forward Jeenathan Williams’ 21 points and 6 rebounds on 50% shooting.
The Rams were led by a pair of sophomores, forward David Roddy and guard Isaiah Stevens. Roddy had 17 points and eight rebounds on eight-for-11 shooting while Stevens recorded 14 points and nine assists. The duo’s clutch shot-making proved to be the difference in the contest, as the Bulls defense couldn’t hold up down the stretch.
The back and forth contest saw 10 lead changes with the game being decided in the final two minutes.
“This was a heck of a college basketball game here tonight, I thought both teams played extremely hard. It was kind of haymaker after haymaker [with] teams going on runs,” CSU head coach Niko Medved said after the game. “At the end of the day, we just made a couple more plays than they did.”
Stevens and Roddy hit countless shots in clutch moments for the Rams, and while shots by Williams and sophomore forward LaQuill Hardnett kept the Bulls competitive, UB’s defense couldn’t stop CSU.
Just after Hardnett hit a game-tying three-pointer with 14 seconds to go, Stevens hit the game-winning layup to put CSU up by two with two seconds remaining.
The Bulls showed great heart down the stretch but didn’t hit enough clutch shots, or get enough stops on defense to win the game.
“We had some good looks and some of those shots I thought were going down that we missed and it’s part of the game,” UB head coach Jim Whitesell said. “But for our guys, I’m really proud of them.”
In an especially draining COVID-ridden season, Whitesell wishes his players got a better result to keep the season alive. The Bulls fought until the very end but fell just short, a result Whitesell and the coaching staff are satisfied with because of the fight and effort displayed by UB.
The opportunity to play in college basketball’s oldest tournament isn’t easy to come by and the loss will only serve as extra motivation for the Bulls as they prepare for next season.
“I think every coach will tell you this: all the emotions that come with this pandemic in a basketball sentiment, is always something you’re living with every day. It’s tough on the kids, it’s tough on everyone as we know,” Whitesell said. “We’re appreciative of the opportunity but along with it, proud of the guys and we'll definitely use this as an area we can come back and work harder.”
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.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.