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COLD BULLS SHOOT THEMSELVES OUT OF WINS
Baby, it's cold inside: UB men's and women's basketball teams struggle with icy patches in weekend defeats
Tough all-around weekend for University at Buffalo basketball.
The men were burned by their own cold spells in an 86-77 home loss to Toledo in a nationally televised game on Friday.
The women were toasted by a combination of the seventh-leading scorer in the country, Western Michigan’s Lauren Ross, a top-50 rebounder, Taylor Williams, and their own shooting woes in a 68-56 loss in Kalamazoo on Saturday.
Frustrating! Let’s sort through it all.
Heat Checked: Bulls’ Offense Slips, Too Many Cold Patches vs. High-Flying Rockets
Image from ubbulls.com
What Happened: Well, it was a familiar story, unfortunately. The Bulls (9-10 overall, 3-3 in Mid-American Conference action) tied the score, 15-15 at 15:18 of the opening period on Friday night on an Armoni Foster layup. From that point on, Buffalo shot eight-of-28 (that’s 29 percent) over the rest of the first and turned the ball over six times.
The Bulls were fortunate to finish down only seven—46-39—despite allowing the Rockets (13-6, 4-2) to shoot over 50 percent. UB tightened up in the second half, tying the score four times and taking the lead twice, but finished the game on the wrong end of a 14-7 Toledo run to lose by nine.
Despite shooting a robust 47 percent overall, 41 percent from three, and 75 percent from the line—Buffalo’s second straight solid shooting game, following Tuesday’s 100-71 throttling of Bowling Green—the numbers still added up to an L.
“We got competitive,” Head Coach Jim Whitesell told Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News. “We got out and took the lead, we did a pretty good job, but our lack of execution at times, in the second, in the last 10 minutes, I thought hurt us. And we missed some good shots. We stopped getting second and third shots in the second half. We’ve got to bounce back and get more complete. We’ve got to bounce back from this, and get back.”
Image from utrockets.com
Toledo came into this game salty after a loss to Ball State earlier in the month in which the team defense fell apart in crunch time. The Rockets trend towards the bottom of the national rankings in field goal percentage defense and scoring defense, and they know it; the Bulls were the recipient of this newfound defensive intensity from Toledo Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk’s squad.
Buffalo scored the first seven points after halftime to tie the game at 46, a run that eventually became 16-7 in the Bulls’ favor, resulting in their first lead since the 16:50 mark of the first half.
The teams played evenly for the next 15 minutes until Toledo went up 77-70 via a combination of smooth offense and lockdown defense, which hasn’t always been the weapon of choice for the Rockets.
Jan. 3 was 17 short days ago, but it feels like 17 weeks ago to the Toledo men’s basketball team. Ball State beat the Rockets 90-83 that night, leading virtually the entire game and shooting 50 percent from the field and 3-point range.
The Cardinals were the seventh team in 14 games to score at least 80 points against the Rockets, the fourth to shoot 50 percent from the field, and the eighth to make at least 40 percent of their 3s. Kowalczyk called the performance “humbling” and “embarrassing,” and apparently his team felt the same way.
In the past five games, Toledo’s defense has held opponents to 41.4 percent shooting and 34.1 percent from long range.
“We had our ups and downs, but we figured out our defense and rebounds,” (forward Setric) Millner said. “When we lock down on defense, no one can beat us.”
Image from toledoblade.com
Notable Performances: Toledo and Buffalo entered the game as the highest-scoring teams in the conference, according to UBBulls.com. The Bulls’ press arm also noted:
LaQuill Hardnett recorded his fourth double-double on the year finishing with 18 points and 12 boards.
Isaiah Adams (15), Curtis Jones (15), and Zid Powell (12) also finished in double figures.
Armoni Foster had a great game distributing the ball as he had seven assists. Buffalo is now 8-2 at home on the season.
As for Toledo, the usual suspects were at the top of the box score. Slick guard RayJ Dennis scored 21 points, dished out seven assists, and grabbed four rebounds.
“He's special," Kowalczyk said of the junior guard, who’s in his second season with the Rockets after starting his collegiate career at Boise State. "He just has a great pace to his game.”
The other familiar faces included 2021-22 3rd Team All-MAC forward Setric Millner, Jr., who scored 20 points with six boards, and frontcourt mate J.T. Shumate, a 2nd Team All-MAC forward last season who dropped 12 points and collected eight rebounds.
Quotable: “We’ve got a team that will have spurts where we go on big stretches, and then there’s times where we don’t know where we’re supposed to be at and have these mental lapses on defense, so that’s what we need to get better at it, and as a team, stay locked in, on both sides of the floor.” You nailed it, Isaiah Adams. (Buffalo News)
Image from getsomemaction.com
Where We Stand: Buffalo’s in a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with Bowling Green and Northern Illinois, both of whom the Bulls beat this season. Conference-leading Kent State (16-3, 6-0) whipped third-place Ball State, 86-65, in the Cleveland suburbs on Friday night. On Saturday, eighth-place Ohio (10-9, 2-4) blew out Central Michigan (7-12, 2-4), 96-68; defending MAC champs and current second-place squad Akron (13-6, 5-1) took out Western Michigan (6-13, 2-4), 63-55; Northern Illinois (7-12, 3-3) picked up a 21-point win, 88-67, over confounding Eastern Michigan (4-15, 1-5); and Bowling Green (9-10, 3-3) bounced back from its big loss to UB with an 83-73 win over Miami.
What’s Next: UB travels west to face Ball State on Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in Worthen Arena (ESPN+). The Cardinals are sure to be surly following their recent letdown against powerful Kent State, who earned eight votes in the most recent AP Top 25 and are likely to climb this week. If the game was a measuring stick, BSU had its collective hand slapped.
Head coach Michael Lewis commended his opponent postgame, calling them "without a doubt" an NCAA tournament team. Lewis even said he apologized to KSU head coach Rob Senderoff in the handshake line "for our league not being better, top to bottom, to help him."
KSU's game plan to thwart sophomore center Payton Sparks was evident, and the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year never found his footing despite being the biggest physical presence on the court. He had arguably his worst game of the season, tallying seven points, a season-low two rebounds and a season-high five turnovers while getting to the free throw line just twice. He entered the evening with 139 free-throw attempts, which ranked fifth in the nation and first in the MAC, according to BSU Athletics.
The guard trio of redshirt junior Jarron Coleman, senior Demarius Jacobs and sophomore Jaylin Sellers was particularly ineffective. The Golden Flashes' aggressive defensive approach, featuring double teams and constant pressure on ball screens, took all three out of their comfort zones, leading to bad shots and a hesitation to attack.
Coleman, despite surpassing 1,000 career points in the outing, shot a season-worst 1-for-9 (11%) from the field with just one assist. Sellers and Jacobs found some success in garbage time when KSU's defense softened, but Sellers finished the first half shooting just 1-for-3, mostly acting as a spot-up threat rather than the dynamic offensive weapon he's capable of being.
The Bulls are 0-5 on the road this season, and are heading straight into a hornet’s nest. This, however, marks a phenomenal opportunity for a season-turning bounce-back after losing three winnable games over the last four contests. While victories may be tricky, UB has proven it can play with anyone this season. Next is nailing down the “entire game” portion of the formula.
We’ll find out which soon enough!
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Boss Ross Nets 20, While Williams Chairs the Boards with 16 Rebounds in WMU Win Over Bulls
Image from wmubroncos.com
What Happened: We all watched Dyaisha Fair last season, so we know the deal: to become an elite scorer, you need to get buckets even when everyone in the building knows you’re going to shoot. Western Michigan redshirt sophomore guard Lauren Ross (pictured above), the eighth-leading scorer in Division 1 basketball with 21.4 points per game, showed Buffalo why she’s nearing that level Saturday. Ross scored 20 points on an efficient seven-of-12 performance, including three triples, and grabbed seven boards in the 68-56 Broncos win (9-8, 4-2) in Kalamazoo.
Not bad! Her own teammate, however, may have been the game’s MVP: junior forward Taylor Williams, a 6’2 native of New Baltimore, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, also scored 20 and snagged 16 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double. Williams in 50th in the country with 9.1 rebounds per game.
Like the UB men, the women (8-7, 3-3) were plagued by a cold start and a stumble to the finish line. Buffalo shot 18 percent (!) from the floor in the first quarter, falling behind 17-8, and then—after clawing their way back to a one-point, 50-49 deficit by the end of the third quarter—closed the game with a one-for-13 (eight percent!) shooting performance.
That’s not going to win a lot of games. From wmubroncos.com:
To start the third quarter, Buffalo came out strong with points from Re'shawna Stone and Latrice Perkins. Stone scored a total of 10 points in the third and tied the game for the Bulls with a layup four minutes into play. However, the tie did not last long. With 5:09 to play Watters put WMU up by three with a made corner shot. WMU ended the third quarter with a 50-49 lead.
The Broncos closed out the final stretch with a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter. Williams, Watters, Spitzley, and Carlson all combined for a total of 17 points to close out the game, 68-56. The Broncos outshot the Bulls going 27-of-62 (44 percent) from the field, 7-of-25 from deep (28 percent), and 7-of-14 (50 percent) from the free throw line. WMU pulled down 43 boards, adding 18 assists and nine steals.
The Bulls shot 20-of-53 (38 percent) from the field, 1-10 (10 percent) from deep, and 15-of-20 (75 percent) from the charity stripe. The Bulls had 31 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, and eight steals. Each forced 13 turnovers.
Notable Performances: Tough game for the Bulls. Fifth year guard Jazmine Young scored 17 points on five-of-13 shooting and had seven rebounds and three steals. Graduate guard Zakiyah Winfield added 16 points, eight boards (dropping her to 12th nationally in rebounds with a season average of 10.9 per game), and three assists. Fellow grad guard Re’Shawna Stone had 15 points, and second-year forward Emerita Mashaire delivered six points and five rebounds in 35 minutes.
Image from ubbulls.com
Latrice Perkins (5’11, pictured above) started in place of 6’3 forward Kayla Salmons, who did not play in Saturday’s game. The tall Australian would’ve been helpful against the 6’2 Williams. Buffalo’s already thin in the backcourt, with 6’2 Kiara Johnson out for the season, and 6’2 Ronnie Nwora on indefinite leave. Perkins, while tall-ish and very talented, isn’t necessarily a banger in the paint. Mashaire was the only UB player at least six feet tall on Saturday besides 6’2 freshman Hattie Ogden, who’s still a bit raw and only logged seven minutes.
Image from getsomemaction.com
Where We Stand: After three straight MAC wins, UB has now lost two in a row, falling into a fifth-place tie with Kent State (the Golden Flashes did, however, beat Buffalo earlier this season). In this weekend’s MACtion:
Bowling Green (16-2, 5-1) maintained its hold on a piece of first place with its fifth MAC home win, a 66-57 win over visiting Kent State (11-6, 3-3).
Akron (13-4, 4-2) lost a tough rivalry matchup with Toledo (13-4, 4-2), dropping a 76-63 road game at Savage Arena. Reagan Bass scored 24 points in the loss.
Cellar-dwelling Ohio (3-14, 1-5) finally put together a full game and knocked out a road win over Miami, 84-73, in overtime. Yaya Felder scored 28 for the Bobcats.
Northern Illinois (10-7, 2-4), on the flip side, lost a road game in overtime, as the Huskies were outlasted by Eastern Michigan (10-7, 2-4) in the Eagles’ seventh home win.
Ball State (15-4, 5-1) continued pounding the competition as four starters scored in double figures en route to its ninth home win of the season, 71-62, over Central Michigan (3-14, 1-5).
Image from bgsufalcons.com
What’s Next: Another tough one. The Bulls have taken three shots at the MAC’s top-tier competition so far—Kent State, Ball State, and WMU—and came up short in each, despite playing these contenders tight.
Buffalo can take aim at the current leader on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. when Bowling Green comes to Alumni Arena (ESPN+). The Falcons “won ugly” this weekend, according to their own coach, and after five straight wins may be positioned for a letdown.
Bowling Green State University’s women’s basketball team capped off a challenging three-game stretch with another emotional win on Saturday.
Jocelyn Tate and Elissa Brett had double-doubles, Lexi Fleming bounced back from a first-quarter knee injury to hit several big 3-pointers in the second half, and Allison Day sparked a strong start to the final quarter in BGSU’s 66-57 Mid-American Conference win over Kent State at the Stroh Center.
BGSU notched its fifth consecutive win despite committing a season-high 20 turnovers and putting up its second lowest scoring output of the year.
“I thought it was a great example of finding a way to win ugly,” BGSU coach Robyn Fralick said. “This was a gauntlet of a stretch.
“At Akron [71-66 win on Jan. 14], we had a furious comeback. Toledo [88-76 win on Wednesday] at home, emotional game. We’ve had a lot of challenges and adversity come upon us this week, and then grind out a win today. I thought our defense and our rebounding and our toughness really stood strong in a game that was kind of choppy.”
Senior guard Elissa Brett (pictured above) averages 12.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for BGSU. Other notables include sophomore forward Jocelyn Tate (9.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists per game), junior guard Nyla Hampton (11.8 points, 3.4 assists, 3.1 steals per game), and senior guard Morgan Sharps (10.4 points per game, 39.4 percent from three).
Sharps, however, was reportedly on crutches at Saturday’s game; junior guard and team captain Lexi Fleming, coming off a knee injury of her own and a scary moment against Kent State in which she had to be carried off the court, picked up Sharps’ minutes and drilled a series of second-half threes to ice the Flashes.
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Field Reports: Dayton at George Washington
New feature we’ll have here at UB In 5 throughout the basketball season: a look at some of the other mid-major programs in the Bulls’ weight class. Since our little newsletter is located i the nation’s capital, we’ll be seeing a lot of Atlantic 10 hoops—George Mason, George Washington, Richmond, and VCU are all within easy driving distance of our spacious Northern Virginia headquarters.
Today, we’ll check out George Washington, who entered the game 9-9 overall and 3-2 in A10 play, and the Colonials’ guests, conference rival Dayton.
The Flyers (13-6, 5-1) are good—#54 in KenPom.com’s rankings, 64th in NCAA NET, and winners of 10 of their last 12 coming into this game. UB and Dayton share two common opponents—Western Michigan and George Mason—and the Flyers whipped WMU, 67-47, on Nov. 30. Buffalo beat the Patriots, 82-74, back on the island in the final game of the Paradise Jam. Sophomore DaRon Holmes II, a 6’10 sophomore forward from Goodyear, Arizona,1 averages 18.6 points per game. Freshman guard Mike
COMING IN: The Flyers (13-6, 5-1) are good—#54 in KenPom.com’s rankings, 64th in NCAA NET, and winners of 10 of their last 12 before traveling to Foggy Bottom. Dayton returned five starters this season, are the preseason pick to win the A10, and are the top defensive team in their conference (ninth in the nation), giving up 58.7 points a game heading into the GW matchup. They’re also the tallest team in country, averaging 6’6 per player.
The Colonials (9-9, 3-2)