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FEAR AND LOATHING IN OXFORD & ATHENS
UB women win, men lose in a pair of messy weeknight games in the Buckeye State
Image from miamiredhawks.com
Some places bring out the worst in us. I, for example, may still be a persona non grata at Eighteenth Street Lounge following a couple of rough nights at the club when I first moved to D.C. several years ago1
For the University at Buffalo men’s and women’s basketball teams, the state of Ohio may be their Eighteenth Street Lounge.
On Tuesday night, the men (8-8 overall, 2-1 in Mid-American Conference play) fumbled their way to a 91-80 loss at Miami (7-9, 1-2), committing 17 turnovers, shooting 18 percent from three, missing 15 of 38 free throw attempts, and allowing a 12-2 run over in the final five minutes of a game the Bulls had trailed by three. The messed-up part of it all? They looked, for significant stretches of the contest, like the better team.
On Wednesday, the women (7-5, 2-1) trailed last-place Ohio (2-12, 0-3) at the Convocation Center in Athens by as many as 12 points before putting together a 19-8 fourth quarter to pull out a 69-64 road victory. UB had 19 turnovers, its most in four games, and didn’t nail this one down until graduate guard Re’Shawna Stone hit a free throw with 14 seconds remaining in the final quarter, giving Buffalo the insurmountable two-score lead.
Let’s take a closer look.
UB Men Mess Around, Lose By 11
Image from ubbulls.com
The things we love about the UB men’s basketball team are also the things that will drive us nuts this season.
The running and gunning? So fun, except when we get missed dunks and short-arm layups.
The tightrope-walking steals? So sweet, except when the defensive rotations go out the window and the ball finds wide-open shooters.
The fearless driving in traffic? So thrilling, yet less impressive when these blitzkrieg attacks on the basket result in clanked free throws.
Buffalo’s 91-80 loss to Miami (#310 in NCAA NET) had all of the Bulls’ good, bad, and ugly. The game featured UB at its worst, and best, and, over the final 10 minutes of the loss, worst once again.
Road woes: The UB women’s basketball team took what appears to be a private flight to Athens to face Ohio on Wednesday. Are the Buffalo men traveling on a beat-up yellow school bus?2 The Bulls are now officially 0-4 on the road, and 1-7 if you include the two Paradise Jam losses in St. Thomas and the Hoopsgiving debacle in Atlanta against Tulane late last year. Once again, UB left its range at home, at least in the first half—Buffalo shot 40 percent from the floor in the opening stanza. The median field goal percentage in Division 1 hoops is 44.5 percent, and the Bulls have failed to reach that mark in four of the seven road defeats.
Defense breakdowns: The RedHawks (7-9, 1-2) average 75 points per game, which isn’t bad—it’s sixth in the surprisingly high-scoring MAC, and 104th in the country—but they’d previously hit the 90-point mark against Jackson State, which has the 11th-worst scoring defense in the nation, and St. Mary of the Woods College, a bad Division 3 program better known for its equine school than for basketball. Miami shot 51 percent for the game, and went eight-of-15 from the floor and 11 of 13 from the free throw line over the critical 10-minute stretch to end the game after Buffalo cut the RedHawks’ lead to 62-61 on a Yazid Powell steal and score.
Who else is sick of Mekhi Lairy? The 5’8 senior guard has been battling the Bulls since 2018—11 games in total, including two in the MAC playoffs—and over the last three he’s just murdered them. Lairy scored 20 points on Tuesday, his third consecutive 20+ performance against UB. He was perilously close to a triple-double, collecting 11 boards and seven steals. Lairy also shot six-for-six from the line and helped slow down the guard trio of Curtis Jones, Armani Foster, and Zid Powell, who combined for 51 points on 38 shots and 23 free-throw attempts.
Introducing Anderson Mirambeaux: The 6’8, 305-pound big man transferred into Miami from Cleveland State and is going to be a literal pain for the foreseeable future. Surprisingly light of foot, Mirambeaux double-doubled with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and helped drive the Bulls’ backcourt to distraction. LaQuill Hardnett scored five points and had five rebounds, his worst showing since the win over St. Bonaventure (two points, four rebounds) on Dec. 3. Six-foot-eleven freshman Isaac Jack’s four points and two rebounds matched his low as a starter, and while Jonnivius Smith scored seven points, he was clearly rattled at times in the paint.
And yet… For all of the sloppiness in this game—bad shots, bad passes, bad turnovers—the game was there for the taking. UB only trailed by four with 4:44 remaining in the second half, then scored just two points over the next 3:42 while Miami built a 13-point lead. Foster went eight-for-13 from the field, and absolutely blew past the RedHawks’ guards en route to a 19-point second half. Jones was a frustrating four-of-13 from the field, but still scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Powell also shot poorly—five-of-12, one-of-five from three—but is a foul-drawing machine, and knocked down nine of 13 free throws en route to 20 points. Zid’s still working himself back from a shoulder injury, and presumably will get stronger as the season progresses.
Why not us?
Image from ubbulls.com
Here’s another piece of good news: the MAC is a circus right now.
On Tuesday night, Kent State (fourth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25) beat Toledo (16th in the MM25), Akron took out Bowling Green, and Ohio shocked Ball State, which had received 63 MM25 votes in the latest poll.
Five MAC teams (KSU, Ball State, Toledo, Akron, and Ohio) fall between #48 and #141 in the NCAA NET rankings.
Buffalo and Bowling Green, at #204 and #233, respectively, each have wins over Ohio.
Miami’s beaten Buffalo. Toledo’s lost to Kent and Ball State. Akron also fell to Ball State.
No one’s running away with this conference.
Is Buffalo going to win the regular season title? Probably not. Who cares?
Could you see this team getting hot in March? Making an improbable run to the tournament? Why not?
If Buffalo can tighten up the turnovers, play more consistent defense, and start popping some threes—all things they’ve done, at times, this season—who knows?
Enjoy the ride, everyone.
Image from cmuchippewas.com
UP NEXT: Another road trip, this time to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to face CMU (4:30 p.m., ESPN3). Central Michigan is is 6-10 this season and 1-2 in the MAC, although the Chippewas do have a big win over Purdue…Northwest. I did not know there was a directional Purdue! Seriously, though, CMU did beat Michigan earlier this season, and while the Wolverines are one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball—ranked #22 in the AP Preseason Top 25, UM currently sits at #78 in NCAA NET—that’s a legit feather in the cap for Tony Barbee’s struggling program.
Junior guard Jesse Zarzuela (pictured above), a transfer from Coppin State, leads the Chips and is 14th in the MAC with 14.7 points per game. Senior guard Brian Taylor is hot on his heels with 14.4 points per game. Taylor also pulls down a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game, which is sixth in the conference—just behind LaQuill Hardnett, who averages seven.
Central Michigan is last in the MAC in points per game (67.2), field goal percentage (.417), and three-point percentage (.275). Barbee’s bunch allows just over 68 points per game, however, which is in the top half of Division 1 teams. Ranked #292 in NCAA NET, this should be a prime opportunity for UB to bust its slump away from Alumni Arena.
UB Women Also Mess Around, Win By 5
Image from ohiobobcats.com
Probably don’t want to see the UB women ride out a nail-biter against a team with double-digit losses, but what are you going to do—Ws all count the same in standings. Ohio, buoyed by a 22-point game from sophomore guard Yaya Felder, had Buffalo in a seven-point halftime hole and led by six heading into the fourth quarter, but couldn’t seal the deal.
Give a ton of credit to fifth year senior guard Jazmine Young, the lone holdover from last season’s MAC champions, and graduate guard Re’Shawna Stone, the former Division 2 National Player of the Year at D2 national champion Glenville State.
Young, money: Young scored 20 points and knocked down nine out of 10 critical free throws, including four in the fourth quarter and two with 25 seconds left in the game while the Bulls nursed a three-point lead. That was no joke considering what the Bobcats had done from behind the arc on Wednesday—Felder was four of five from three, and the team shot nearly 40 percent from distance after going 31-for-117 (that’s 26 percent) over it’s last five games. Heck, OU was one-for-21 from three against Kent State last Saturday.
Stone and fellow Glenville State alum Zakiyah Winfield get much of the attention (and not without good reason—Winfield’s 12th in D1 in rebounds with 11 per game), but Young is quietly averaging over 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists while logging 34 minutes per game. Young put in 38 minutes last night, and has played fewer than 37 minutes just twice since the beginning of December.
Leveling up: Stone, however, continues to position herself as UB’s go-to weapon. She scored a game-high 23 points in 40 minutes, out-dueling Felder in a classic matchup between two guards determined to eke out the win. Stone scored 15 points and had three assists in the first half,3 and was the key reason why UB was down only seven after a lackluster 20 minutes. Re'Shawna's now scored in double digits in her last eight games and is averaging 17 points per contest over that stretch.
Finnish-ing the job: The minutes continue to come in bunches for Buffalo’s Iron Four. Stone and Winfield each logged a full 40. Young played 38, and sophomore swing Emerita Mashaire put in 32 minutes. Mashaire scored just four points on one-of-four shooting, but grabbed eight rebounds—all on the defensive boards—and had four steals. Emerita carries a heavy load on this team, one without many bigs—she’s one of five active six-footers, but the only one who gets regular minutes besides 6’3 Kayla Salmons, who averages half as many minutes—which means she’s a three playing, at times, as a five. The native of Finland and Cincy transfer is one of the anchors on what is currently the top defensive unit in the MAC.
Image from emueagles.com
UP NEXT: Eastern Michigan pays a Saturday visit for a 2 p.m. showdown at Alumni Arena (ESPN+). The Eagles (9-5, 1-2) are ranked #218 in NCAA NET, 10 spots behind the Bulls and have beaten Miami (#251) but lost to both Akron (#115) and Ohio in conference action to date.
Sophomore guard Lachelle Austin and junior forward Ce’Nara Skanes (pictured above) both average a shade under 13 points per game. The six-foot Skanes also snags eight rebounds per game, and with backcourt mates Irekpitan Ozzy-Momodu (6’2, 7.1 rebounds per game) and Tayre Eke (6’3, 5.7 rebounds and a MAC-high two blocks per game), may cause some matchup problems and defensive issues for a Bulls team succeeding with a small, fast lineup that attacks the basket and leans heavily on the 5’7 Winfield for boards.
Should be a good one as UB really begins to jostle for position in the hotly competitive MAC. Five teams—Ball State (#8), Toledo (#9), Bowling Green (#11), Kent State (#13), and Akron (#24)—are in the CollegeInsider.com Women’s Mid-Major Top 25, and a sixth, Northern Illinois, is receiving votes.
Toledo (11-3, 2-1) beat Ball State on Wednesday, 83-76, thanks to a 6-0 run early in the fourth quarter that gave the Cardinals (11-3, 2-1) just enough room to hang on.
Akron (12-2, 3-0) beat EMU by 17, 60-43, last night with 13 points, six boards and four assists from our old friend Dominique Camp.
Bowling Green (13-2, 2-1) obliterated CMU by 33, 101-68.
MAC-leading scorer Lauren Ross scored 31 points as Western Michigan (6-8, 1-2) pulled an upset on NIU (9-5, 1-2), winning 79-70 in Kalamazoo.
And finally—six-win Miami took down a giant of its own, dropping Kent State (10-4, 2-1), 84-76, in Oxford.
Any team, on any given night, can shake up this league. What’s stopping Buffalo from making a run?
UB basketball is officially appointment television.
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Never wear your sunglasses in the basement! The bouncers do not like that, especially when they tell you to take them off like 50 times. Also, don’t get blackout wasted. Probably just a good life note in general.
One of the helpers came on Hattie Ogden’s three-pointer at 3:44 of the second quarter, Buffalo’s first made three of the game and one of only two the Bulls hit in the half—the second, of course, coming from Stone.