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ANOTHER WEEKEND, ANOTHER UB BASKETBALL HOME SWEEP
Plus: Bulls softball knocks off Penn State; Buffalo News update on Monika Simkova
Image from ubbulls.com
To paraphrase Homer Simpson, the UB men’s and women’s basketball teams are blasting across across the alkali flats of the Mid-American Conference in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated rocket car.
Saturday marked the second time in the past three weekends in which the two programs swept a doubleheader at Alumni Arena, where the Bulls are a combined 20-3 since November.
The victims this time were Miami (Ohio), who fell to the women, 83-71, and Western Michigan, whom the men took down, 87-73.
Let’s dig in.
UB MEN OVERCOME 16-POINT FIRST HALF DEFICIT, BEAT WMU BY 14
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It’s tough not to feel a little sorry for the Western Michigan men’s basketball team. Head Coach Clayton Bates, a Broncos assistant for years, was given the top job at the start of the pandemic with all of the enthusiasm of a trip to the DMV.
Bates has done little to reverse the fortunes of a program that has one winning season since 2014. Help was supposed to be on the way: former Godwin Heights (Michigan) high school teammates and state champions Lamar Norman, Jr. and Markeese Hastings transferred to WMU from Duquesne and Butler, respectively, to help spark a turnaround.
Their reward? A 14-game losing streak cutting through the heart of this lost season, leaving the Broncos (6-12 overall, 2-14 in Mid-American Conference play) 331st out of 358 Division 1 basketball teams in the NCAA NET rankings. The school newspaper recently published an editorial with the headline “CLAYTON BATES IS NOT THE RIGHT LEADER FOR WMU MEN’S BASKETBALL.” Ouch.
And—to add insult to injury—after putting together a two-game win streak over league rivals Central Michigan (323rd in NET) and Akron (159th), Western Michigan came into Buffalo on Saturday, built a 16-point first half lead, and were promptly outscored 74-44 in the remaining 26:44 of the game en route to an 87-73 loss.
The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team didn’t freak out, or point fingers at who was at fault.
The Bulls trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half of an 87-73 win against Western Michigan, but when they got to their locker room at halftime, the Bulls calmly evaluated what they needed to do to get themselves back into the game Saturday at Alumni Arena.
“They said, ‘first of all, we’ve got to share the ball. We’ve got to play better defense. We’ve got to finish things,’ ” UB coach Jim Whitesell said.
“This group, they’re growing and developing that way, in their ownership of what we have to fix. It wasn’t screaming and yelling, it was more like, ‘okay, we got back in it, we didn’t play well at all, and we’ve got to shut down transition, pick up our pressure, we’ve got to move the ball.’ The kids went out, made the adjustments and did what we had to do.”
Trailing 38-33 at halftime, the Bulls (16-8, 10-4 Mid-American Conference) erased the deficit in the opening minutes of the second half, and sustained that energy. Nine of UB’s first 16 points in the first five minutes of the second half came from transition plays by the Bulls or off turnovers by the Broncos.
What can you say—the Bulls (16-8, 10-4) are just a better team.
How much better? Despite the comeback, UB actually fell in the NET rankings, from 105th to 108th.
More postmortem from UBBulls.com:
The Bulls came out of the break on an 18-3 run as they opened up their first double-digit lead of the game. The second half was spearheaded by senior Ronaldo Segu, who had 11 points and six assists in the final 20 minutes of action.
The Bulls placed four in double figures led by 24 points from Jeenathan Williams (pictured top), who added four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. (Senior forward Josh) Mballa (pictured above, center) had 20 points and nine rebounds, while Segu finished with 16 points and six dimes. Sophomore David Skogman had 11 points. Maceo Jack chipped in nine points and six boards...
Buffalo had had just eight turnovers for the game, including a stretch of just over 23 minutes where the Bulls did not turn it over at all. UB again held an advantage on the glass, outrebounding them 38-27.
From an individual point of view:
Williams snuck up to 49th in the nation in scoring with 18.8 points per game, and is third in the MAC, behind WMU’s Norman (20.2 points per game) and Ohio’s Mark Sears (19.7 points per game). He’s 77th in NCAA hoops on three-point field goal percentage (.433), and is second in the MAC.
Segu leads the MAC in assists with 5.3 per game, which is also good for 30th nationally.
Mballa is third in the MAC in rebounds (8.3 per game) and is fourth in D1 in offensive rebounds (3.7 per game).
Skogman is third in the MAC in field goal percentage (.585), and is 17th in D1 in offensive efficiency (130.0) and second in field goal percentage on two-point shots (.776). Helps to be 6’11!
Another Busy Week for the UB Men
Image from ubbulls.com
Winners of six in a row, there’s no time for the Bulls to take a break. UB has a two-game, midweek road trip dead ahead, with a Tuesday stop at Miami (Ohio) (12-14, 6-9, 246th in NET) and a Thursday visit to Northern Illinois (8-17, 5-10, 297th in NET).
Buffalo is back home next Saturday for a second consecutive game against the Huskies. TV schedules have not been announced for these matchups, but keep an eye on ESPN3, ESPN+, and CBS Sports Network, as per usual.
MAC Leaders (Except Toledo) Rue Missed Opportunities By CMU
Image from utrockets.com
Central Michigan (6-18, 5-8) lost to second-place Toledo (21-6, 13-3), 68-66, last night at the Rockets’ Savage Arena. The Chippewas aren’t expected to go anywhere this postseason—they’re not even a lock for the conference tournament—so this may have been their last shot at glory.
They couldn’t even get that last shot off.
CMU blew two golden opportunities in the final seconds of the game. After Cameron Healy hit a corner three with seven seconds on the clock to cut the Toledo lead to 67-66, the Rockets fumbled the ensuing inbound pass out of bounds—Central Michigan ball on its own half of the court, six seconds left, needing two points to take the lead.
On the Chips’ subsequent inbound play, Ralph Bissainthe stepped on the sideline. Turnover, Toledo ball.
No worries! CMU has fouls to give, and a few hacks later, the Rockets’ J.T. Shumate is at the free throw line.
He makes the first…and misses the second!
Bissainthe rebound, 68-66! Four seconds left, live ball, no timeouts left! Pass upcourt to Healy, who has an open look at a three, and he…
…inexplicably dribbles into double coverage under the basket, pump fakes, and passes back to the three-point arc as time expires. Cam, there were four seconds left, buddy!
"That's a winnable game," first-year CMU coach Tony Barbee told CMUChippewas.com. "You've got to take advantage of it when you put yourself in these positions. Like I've said from the beginning, I didn't come here for moral victories. We didn't get enough guys making plays when they needed to make them."
Not even sure I’d even call that a moral victory! God bless these college kids, but the moment got too big for the Chippewas.
It’s a shame—the loss could’ve further jumbled the increasingly chaotic MAC leaderboard.
Three-loss Ohio, coming off a stinging 23-point road stumble at Kent State on Friday, would’ve clung to the top of the league, but Toledo, KSU, and Buffalo would’ve all had four losses—and the Bulls have a huge home game against the Rockets slated for Tuesday, March 1, followed by another matchup with the Golden Flashes on March 3. The Rockets beat UB, 86-75, at Savage Arena on Jan. 25, but Buffalo knocked off KSU, 64-51, back on Jan. 21 at Alumni Arena.
While unlikely to take over first place (UB lost its one matchup with the Bobcats this season, and Ohio’s remaining four games—minus a home contest with always-tough Akron—is not formidable), Buffalo can potentially muscle as high as second heading into the MAC tournament.
That Toledo loss to CMU could’ve pushed the suddenly-shaky Rockets as low as fifth if the Zips won out, UT lost to Buffalo, and WMU, Miami, or Bowling Green also upset the Glass City gang.
As John Whittier Greenleaf once wrote, “For all sad words of tongue and pen / The saddest are these: it might have been.”
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FAIR, WOOLLEY, CHRISTIE SHINE IN LATEST UB WOMEN HOME WIN
Image from ubbulls.com
Something strange happened on Jan. 26—Buffalo lost at home.
This was back in the deepest depths of the Bulls’ injury woes. The only reliable reserve was seldom-used Ramatoulaye Keita, who played nine minutes in that 72-70 loss to Ball State.
Otherwise, all UB does at home is win. Buffalo averages 70 points and allows just under 58 inside Alumni Arena, where the Bulls have posted a 12-1 record this season.
UB did it again on Saturday, knocking off visiting Miami (Ohio) and completing a sweep of the RedHawks (8-17 overall, 4-12 in MAC play) with an 83-71 win.
The dynamic backcourt duo of Dyaisha Fair (pictured above) and Georgia Woolley combined for 56 points to lead the University at Buffalo women's basketball team to an 83-71 win over Miami (OH) on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Arena. With the win the Bulls improve to 18-8 overall and 12-4 in league play.
Fair surpassed the 30-point mark for the third time in four games as she scored a game-high 36 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists and four steals. Woolley scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half while adding four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Junior Loren Christie recorded her third double-double of the season, tying a career-high with 14 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
"We really tried to stretch our bench today," said head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. "Miami is a good team, but it is important for all of our players to stay ready and some of them need to learn lessons by being out there but I'm glad that we were still able to get the win. I really love the way Dyaisha and Georgia did their job today."
Image from ubbulls.com
Notes from another victory for the Bulls, who remain firmly in second place in the MAC—three games behind Toledo and a game-and-a-half up on third-place Akron:
An ascent, some turbulence, but a safe landing: The game played out in classic UB 2021-22 style—a big early lead (11 points with 1:47 left in the first quarter) followed by a struggle to put it away. Miami cut the score to two points three times and one point once over the second and third quarters, finally managing a 65-65 tie with 8:18 remaining in the game on an Edyn Battle layup. From there, Buffalo outscored the RedHawks 18-6, sparked by a pair of key plays from Christie (pictured above, center): the 6’3 junior forward grabbed a rebound on the defensive end, fed Fair, ran the floor, received an awkward exchange in the low post, then pivoted through a defender to sling a pass to Woolley at the opposite elbow, who connected on a long two-pointer. The Bulls, up 67-65, never surrendered the lead again.
More accolades for Loren Christie: Christie had four points, five rebounds, and an assist over that critical 8:18 stretch to close the game—winning time. Her frontcourt production was valuable on a day in which UB stalwart Summer Hemphill struggled (four points, seven rebounds in 34 minutes), junior forward Adebola Adeyeye was limited to 16 minutes while easing back from a knee injury, and reserve forwards Saniaa Wilson and Elea Gaba combined for just four points and two rebounds in seven minutes. Christie—six-of-nine from the floor with a game-high four offensive rebounds, three of which she turned right back into baskets—put the team on her back.
It’s only Fair: Look, we’ve been questioning Legette-Jack’s heavy use of Fair and Woolley for weeks now, arguing that there’s been diminishing efficiency, regardless of point totals, as the two star guards continue to play nearly every minute of every game. Well…it’s tough to argue with results. Fair scored 36 points, including four-of-10 from distance and 12-of-15 from the free-throw line. It was her sixth 30+ points performance of the season and third in her last four games, vaulting Fair back up to fifth nationally in scoring at 23.8 points per game (and, at 5’5, the shortest in the top 75; Samford’s Andrea Cournoyer, 76th with 17 points per game, is 5’4).
Scoring Wizard from Oz: Woolley (pictured below) dropped 20+ for the sixth time in nine contests, and has failed to reach double figures once since Dec. 1—a spread of 21 games. Woolley, a 5’11 freshman from Brisbane, Australia, cracked the top 250 in scoring nationally—she’s 238th, at 14 points per game—and is currently the 12th-highest scoring freshman in the country.
Blue, Ivy: The third quarter featured a 52-point offensive explosion that could warm even a chilly Buffalo afternoon. The 10-minute stretch featured numerous scorer vs. scorer showdowns between top players from each team as Ivy Wolf and Peyton Scott combined for 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal for Miami while Fair and Woolley posted 20 points, two dimes, two boards, and a steal for the Blue and White.
Quite a game.
Up Next: Ohio Turnaround
Image from ubbulls.com
First up: Ohio (13-10, 7-7, 111 in NCAA NET) at home on Wednesday. The Bobcats beat the Bulls, 68-66, in Athens on Jan. 24. The contest will feature perhaps the final showdown between Fair and OU senior guard Cece Hooks, two of the top six scorers in the nation.
Tehn, it’s a two-game road trip to face Kent State (16-8, 8-7, 92nd in NET, 25th in Mid-Major Top 25) on Saturday and Akron (13-8, 10-5, 133rd in NET) on March 2.
The season wraps at home on March 5 against Bowling Green (12-12, 7-8, 118th in NET).
UB SOFTBALL TAKES OUT THE NITTANY LIONS IN SUNNY FLORIDA
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Congratulations to Head Coach Mike Ruechel and the Buffalo softball team, who scored a win over one of the NCAA’s name programs for the first time in eight years on Saturday.
The University at Buffalo softball team defeated Penn State 5-2 at FIU's Felsberg Field on Saturday.
The win over Penn State was UB's first win against a Power 5 opponent since the Bulls defeated Texas Tech 5-0 in 2014.
The Bulls struck first as Alexis Matheney drew a lead off walk and then stole second to move into scoring position and Alexis Lucyshyn capitalized as she singled to left to score Matheney and give the Bulls an early 1-0 lead.
The Bulls added to their lead in the third as led off with a single and later, Rachel Steffan (pictured above) blasted a two-run home run to straightaway center field to put UB up 3-1.
The Nittany Lions trimmed the UB lead to one on a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth, but Julia Tarantino settled with help from her defense as she recorded two straight outs to limit the damage.
Anna Aguon got things going for UB in the top of the sixth as she doubled to left and Olivia Kincanon followed with an RBI single to center to put UB up 4-2 and later, Ally Sobaszek smacked an RBI single up the middle to give the Bulls a 5-2 lead and that would be enough to secure the victory.
Tarantino picked up her first win of the season as she allowed just seven hits and struck out two batters in a complete game effort. Six different Bulls recorded hits in the win.
Penn State was 7-34 in 2021.
The Bulls (3-2) beat Cleveland State, 5-4, earlier today, concluding their run in Florida International University’s Panther Invitational.
Next up: UB travels to New Mexico for UNM’s Lobo Classic from Thursday, Feb. 24 through Saturday, Feb. 26. The slate includes a Friday matchup against Tarleton State, a program receiving three votes in the most recent USA Today Coaches’ Top 25.
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UB VOLLEYBALL’S MONIKA SIMKOVA FEATURED IN THE BUFFALO NEWS
Image from @lucia.michalovicova
Monika Simkova—the Buffalo volleyball player struck by a rare infection that resulted in the amputation of both legs in 2021—has been back on campus since Jan. 31. Today, The Buffalo News published a comprehensive feature story by Rachel Lenzi that brings the reader up to date on Simkova’s successes and struggles.
“I was lucky, in a really bad situation,” Simkova said. “It started like a common cold and then another minute, I’m in a hospital, fighting for my life. But I was really lucky I survived, and I can be here, and that the amputation is at this level, so I can still walk.
“And I know I have a really bright future.”
Worth the price of a subscription, even if just for a month. And consider donating to One4Mon, the GoFundMe that has raised over $150,000 to help cover the cost of Simkova’s medical care.