Saturday afternoon’s matchup was a back-and-forth affair as the UB men’s basketball team (13-8, 7-4 MAC) defeated the Ball State Cardinals (11-13, 6-7 MAC), 80-74, at Alumni Arena.
Strong performances by UB’s “big three” — senior guard Ronaldo Segu, senior forward Jeenathan Williams and senior forward Josh Mballa — powered the Bulls to a hard-fought victory over a formidable conference foe.
Williams, who turned 23 years old on Saturday, led all scorers with 24 points and shot 9-of-16 from the field. The Rochester native tacked on three rebounds and three steals to propel the Bulls to their second three-game winning streak of the season.
Segu and Mballa both dropped 13 points in the winning effort. Mballa was a force down low, snagging eight boards and a game-high four blocks. Segu dished six assists and had two steals, while senior guard Maceo Jack was 4-for-8 from the field with 10 points and four rebounds.
Redshirt sophomore center David Skogman finished just shy of a double-double, mustering a game-high 13 rebounds as well as nine points. Graduate forward Tra’von Fagan came off the bench and put up seven points on top of six rebounds.
UB went on a 10-3 run in the first half to notch a seven-point lead, but after six quick Ball State points, Buffalo took a 38-36 into the half. The Cardinals continued their momentum with a 9-0 run in the second half to earn a 56-48 advantage.
“We struggled a little bit at times offensively and we thought we could get a bigger lead at halftime,” head coach Jim Whitesell said following the game. “And in the first four minutes of the second half they came out and punched us in the face.”
The Cardinals led 58-51 at the midway mark of the second half. UB responded with a 10-0 run to clutch a 61-58 advantage thanks to back-to-back triples from Segu and Williams.
Buffalo found its largest lead of the night, 76-68, with 1:17 left on the clock. Williams’ triple in the final two minutes allowed the Bulls to clutch a six point advantage and pull out the win.
“It’s always good to get a win, especially on my birthday,” Williams said. “Now I can go home and have a good celebration with my family.”
The Bulls shot 30-for-70 from the field and put up 38 points in the paint on top of seven three-pointers. Buffalo turned 18 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points, and turned the Cardinals’ 19 turnovers into 14 points. UB managed only three fastbreak points compared to Ball State’s 22 but outrebounded the Cardinals 42-36.
The Cardinals led for 39.6% of the game and clutched an eight-point lead for 11 minutes. The game featured 15 lead changes and 15 ties, but the Bulls’ offense found its rhythm when it mattered most.
The Bulls will travel to Bowling Green, OH on Tuesday to face the Bowling Green Falcons (12-13, 5-9 MAC) at 7 p.m. at the Stroh Center.
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is studying communications with the hopes of being a sideline reporter. In her spare time, she can be found in the gym, watching football or vibing to Mac Miller. Kayla is on Twitter @kaylasterner.