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COLD-BLOODED IN KALAMAZOO
A successful business trip to Western Michigan for the UB men. The women—well, the six of them who played—fall to NIU.
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If it’s too easy, it’s probably not worth doing. Supposing that old saw is true, then the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team’s trip to Western Michigan University this weekend was indeed a worthwhile endeavor.
Even though the Bulls (11-12 overall, 5-5 in Mid-American Conference play, 166th in NCAA NET) beat the Broncos (6-17, 2-8, 314th in NCAA NET), 85-76, and maintained a double-digit lead for the better part of a 14-minute stretch in the heart of the game, this one never really felt over until Zid Powell and Curtis Jones knocked down four consecutive free throws in the final 25 seconds to wrap it up.
In the victory, Curtis Jones recorded his second 30-point performance of the season. LaQuill Hardnett and Isaac Jack both recorded double-doubles. This marked Hardnett's sixth double-double of the season finishing with a career-high 27 points with 15 boards. Jack scored 10 and grabbed 10 rebounds, his second double-double of the season.
The Bulls dominated the glass, outrebounding the Broncos, 41-28. Fourteen of the Bulls' rebounds were on the offensive end, which led to 18 second-chance points.
Buffalo started the game with five turnovers in their first seven possessions but picked up momentum as they took a 39-27 lead at the half. The Bulls had outrebounded the MAC's top rebounding team, 21-12, in the first period. This included seven offensive boards leading to seven points. Western Michigan's Lamar Norman Jr., averaging 18 points per game, was held scoreless in the first half.
Buffalo stayed hot and extended their lead to 17, their largest lead of the day, less than three minutes into the second half. For a good portion of the second period, the teams were trading basket for basket, but Seth Hubbard knocked down a three to cut Buffalo's lead to nine with over nine minutes to go. Hardnett made a clutch three-pointer with 4:20 remaining to hush the Broncos' crowd. In the closing minutes, the Bulls went 8-for-10 from the free throw line to secure the win.
Jones was 5-for-11 from three-point range, tying his career-high. He has scored a three in 21 of the 23 games on the season, and has at least three three-pointers in 13 games.
We’ll take it. The win snaps a two-game UB losing streak, puts Buffalo back at .500 in MAC play, and earns them a standalone spot at sixth place in the conference. The Bulls are 3-3 in their last six, trail Northern Illinois (6-4 in the MAC) by a game, and have a chance to go above .500 for the first time since the Jan. 27 loss at Kent State when Eastern Michigan comes to Alumni Arena on Tuesday.
There’s No “D” in “EMU”
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The Eagles (6-17, 3-7, 315th in NCAA NET) are almost comically bad this season, having somehow managed to both lose nine games by double digits and nine more by seven points or less. This speaks to both EMU’s defensive ineptitude (348th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, 356th in opponents’ effective field goal percentage, and 317th in opponents’ three-point percentage1, according to kenpom.com) and its ability to get buckets from five-star transfer Emoni Bates, who is tied for the MAC lead with 21 points per game, as well as guards Tyson Acuff (13.4 points per game) and Noah Farrakhan (12.9 points per game), who are each among the conference’s top 20 scorers.
Eastern is coming off a tough, 91-90, loss in overtime at Ball State, Feb. 3, which snapped the Eagles' two-game winning streak. The Eagles have scored at least 90 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1998 MAC Tournament, in which Eastern won all three games to claim the crown. It also is the first time since the opening two games of the 1996-97 season in which EMU has tallied 90+ in back-to-back MAC games.
Eastern has scored 40+ points in the opening half of play in its last two games and stands 3-2 in such games this year. The 91-90 overtime loss at Ball State, Feb. 3, snapped a three-game winning streak in such contests this year.
Emoni Bates scored 35 points at Ball State, Feb. 3, his third game of 35+ this season, which stands as the second-most such games in the NCAA this year behind Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis, who has four. Bates ranks 14th in the NCAA with 21.0 points per game and stands tied for 25th with 461 total points. In the past four games, Bates has scored 112 points, the second-most in a four-game stretch for the Eagles behind John Bowler, who scored 113 in the final four games of the 2005-06 season. Bates holds two of the longest 'Hero Runs' in the nation this year, which runs of scoring 10+ points in a row for his team. His 29-point run at Toledo, Jan. 24, rank first nationally.
In other words, Buffalo better be ready for a track meet. Game time on Tuesday is 7 p.m. (ESPN+).
Around the MAC: Men’s Bracket
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Ball State, fourth in the MAC and two games behind conference-leading Akron, squeaked out a 91-90 OT win over Eastern Michigan on Friday. The Cardinals face lowly Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Tuesday. The Chippewas, ninth in the 12-team league, were flattened by Toledo, 84-59, at the Rockets’ Savage Arena on Saturday.
Western Michigan needs to figure out what’s going on between first-year head coach Dwayne Stephens and star forward Markeese Hastings, who was benched for nearly all of the loss to Buffalo on Saturday. The Broncos will face Miami in Oxford on Tuesday in an ignominious stay-out-of-the-cellar battle.
Toledo, 103rd in NCAA NET, takes on Akron, 93rd in the national rankings, in the marquee matchup of Tuesday evening. The Rockets can horn in on the Zips’ hold on first place with a win at the Rubber City snake pit known as JAR Arena. (Toledo’s RayJ Dennis pictured above)
Bowling Green got 21 points from Chandler Turner on Saturday but it wasn’t enough to beat visiting Northern Illinois. Kent State is also smarting from a nationally-televised double-digit loss at Akron on Friday, and will be looking for a chance to work out their feelings on their home court. A Toledo win over Akron on Tuesday will create a three-team logjam at the top of the conference of two-loss teams.
Ohio moved to 4-6 in MAC play with a 10-point win over Miami on Saturday. The Bobcats will travel to DeKalb on Tuesday to face Northern Illinois, whose 10-13 overall record belies its 6-4 performance in league play and a fifth-place slot in the conference.
UB Women Get Bodied By Davis, Huskies
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A’jah Davis is an absolute force. The senior Northern Illinois forward, a 2021-22 1st Team All-MAC selcetion, came into Alumni Arena and dominated, going full-on bull-in-a-china-shop mode as her Huskies (11-10, 3-7, 207th in NCAA NET) earned a critical 72-62 conference victory over the UB women (9-10, 4-6, 231st in NCAA NET).
Davis (pictured below) scored 18 points on eight-of-10 shooting, grabbed 21 rebounds—tying a career high, which she set against Buffalo last February—and influenced the Bulls’ ability to operate in the paint. UB was stymied to the tune of just 25 team rebounds, only six on the offensive end, and a diminutive seven second-chance points.
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“A’Jah was really solid today,” said head coach Lisa Carlsen. "Those are gaudy numbers and we should applaud her for that. She goes about her work so methodically, does a great job on the defensive glass, and gives herself opportunities to get going with all the second chances on the offense glass.”
Yeah, no doubt, Coach C.! More:
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Huskies. NIU shot 41.9 percent from the field and held Buffalo to 37.3 percent. The Huskies pulled down a season-high 51 rebounds to the Bulls' 25 and turned 19 offensive rebounds into 22 second chance points.
While the game was always an upstream struggle, Buffalo was in this one until the crucial fourth quarter. From ubbulls.com:
The Bulls were led by their “big three” as Zakiyah Winfield recorded her 12th double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds while Re'Shawna Stone matched that scoring effort with 19 points of her own and Jazmine Young added 10 points. Freshman Hattie Ogden just missed out on double figures, making three triples on the day to go with four rebounds and four assists.
Young attacked the basket and scored on UB's first possession of the fourth quarter to pull UB within six, but NIU answered with a 10-0 run to take a 63-49 lead at the six-minute mark. Buffalo kept battling as Winfield skied up for an offensive rebound and kicked it out to Stone on the wing for three before Young raced up court for a tough layup off glass to pull UB within 11 at the final media timeout. The Bulls trimmed the NIU to seven on back-to-back triples from Winfield and Ogden with just over a minute to go but that would be as close as they would get as the comeback effort fell short.
A pair of buzzer-beating three-pointers by NIU’s Grace Hunter—one at the end of the first half, flipping a 33-31 UB lead into a 34-33 deficit, and another at the end of the third, turning a five-point advantage into an eight-point gap, proved massive. Buffalo cut the Northern Illinois lead to seven points at 69-62 with 1:06 left in the game, but never really got close enough to seize control.
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The Bulls remain undermanned and are now without 6’3 center Kayla Salmons, who is out indefinitely for personal reasons. This leaves UB with its five starters—Winfield, Young, Stone, Ogden, and forward Emerita Mashaire—and reserve Latrice Perkins as the effective rotation.
Buffalo’s three active bench players are both short of experience, each averaging less than a season of Division 1 experience, and of stature—only Olivia DeBortoli is over six feet tall, and she is a deep reserve whose main gig is on the UB women’s volleyball team.
The Bulls’ on-court size is limited to Ogden, who’s a 6’2 freshman weapon from three-point range but still figuring out her place on the defensive end of the court, and Mashaire and Perkins, both hovering around six feet but more comfortable as guards or small forwards than body-banging paint-grapplers.
All of which is to say that, records aside, Davis had the opportunity to swing Saturday’s matchup in favor of the Huskies, and she did just that. The results bear it out.
Road Tripping Into Toledo
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Up next: UB travels across northern Ohio to face the Rockets (17-4, 8-2, 74th in NCAA NET, 8th in the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major Top 25) for a Wednesday night tilt. Toledo has won five in a row since losing to conference-leading Bowling Green, 88-76, on Jan. 18, and are coming off an 11-point victory over cellar-dwelling Ohio on Saturday.
Following a seven-point third quarter that saw Toledo miss its first 10 field-goal attempts and go a total of 9 minutes, 53 seconds without a field goal, the Rockets needed an infusion of energy.
They led by 13 points in the second quarter and had a 37-26 halftime advantage cut to one by Ohio University. The four-win, 17.5-point underdog Bobcats were not interested in quietly receding.
“Coach [Tricia Cullop] definitely got on us, so we were like, ‘We got to get it together. We can’t have another situation where we come out flat,’” Toledo guard Khera Goss said. “We knew what we needed to do.”
Goss took it into her own hands.
The junior scored eight consecutive points during a 2:07 stretch of the fourth quarter, extending Toledo’s lead from one to nine. Ohio never got closer than seven the rest of the game, as UT pulled away for a 66-55 win.
“We needed something to get going,” said Goss, who finished with 13 points. “Our offense was very stagnant. I saw opportunities and I thought I should go ahead and take them. I was trying to step up to the challenge.”
Toledo (17-4, 8-2) shot 38.5 percent for the game, the fourth time this season the Rockets have been held under 40 percent and won. UT had 19 points off 17 turnovers.
Rowland also wrote about senior guard Quinesha Lockett, whom he calls one of the greatest players to ever don the Rockets’ gold, white, and midnight blue.
In 35 minutes against Ohio, Lockett scored 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting, a below-average game for the Mid-American Conference player of the year candidate. But she was a team-best plus-15, helping UT to its fifth consecutive win.
Next season, Lockett might very well become Toledo’s all-time leading scorer. Barring injury, she should finish her career No. 2 at worst. And her name litters the rest of the record book.
“Even though everybody wants that for themselves, how it’s happening, it feels like a dream,” Lockett said. “It’s so surreal. I’m just having a great time. Even though I’m accomplishing so much, there is still more to do out there. It’s mind-boggling.”
Currently, Lockett is sixth in points (1,749), sixth in scoring average (15.8), seventh in field goals made (631), eighth in free throws made (334), and 10th in free throws attempted (439).
(Her freshmen) year came with growing pains, as Lockett was benched after going 5 of 17 from the field and 0 for 5 from 3 in the first two games. Following a seven-game hiatus, she re-entered the starting lineup and averaged 11 points per game. She had a breakout season in 2020-21, averaging 19.6 points, the seventh-highest in program history, with 5.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 2.0 steals.
Lockett scored in double figures in 23 of 24 games and eclipsed the 30-point mark three times, becoming a problem for opposing MAC coaches and players. She followed it up with first-team All-MAC honors in 2021-22, recording the fifth-most points (626) and fifth-most field goals (219) in program history.
No likely to be an easy trip for the Bulls. Game time is 7 p.m. at Savage Arena (ESPN+).
Around The MAC: Women’s Bracket
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Ball State downed Kent State for an 80-71 victory on Saturday in a battle of conference super heavyweights and are now tied with first-place Bowling Green with 9-1 league records. The Cardinals will head to Ypsilanti on Wednesday to face more of a MAC cruiserweight in Eastern Michigan, currently tied with UB for seventh overall, which puts UB in the odd position of rooting for Brady Sallee’s bunch. (Pictured above is Ball State’s Ally Becki)
Akron has lost two in a row since beating Buffalo last weekend, and are tied for fifth in the conference with Western Michigan, which won its first game Saturday since losing Lauren Ross. The Zips travel to DeKalb Wednesday to to take on Northern Illinois, who, of course, are coming off a road win over UB.
The monolith that is Bowling Green rolls on, winning its 20th game of the season and ninth in a row with a weekend dismantling of Miami. The next target on the Falcons’ list is their host Wednesday—Ohio, a program that’s 0-8 at home this season.
Kent State’s regular season title hopes were seriously dinged by that weekend loss to Ball State, though you will be hard-pressed to find much sympathy for Todd Starkey’s team over here. The Golden Flashes, now three full games behind the conference leaders, look to get right at home against a Central Michigan squad that’s 2-8 in league play.
Western Michigan still looks to salvage its season after losing its star scorer, and a win at struggling Miami could potentially move the Broncos as high as fourth place in the conference. A loss, however, could drop them as low as eighth.
Which may also be due to the fact that Eastern Michigan is 315th in Division 1 experience, with the average tenure of its roster being 1.1 seasons in top-tier college ball.