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Plus: Poor shooting consigns UB women to OT setback at NIU

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Are they gelling? They may be gelling.

The UB men’s basketball team won its third game in a row on Saturday, improving to 7-2 at home and solidifying its place among the top five seeds in the Mid-American Conference with an 80-74 win over visiting league rival Ball State at Alumni Arena.


The University at Buffalo men's basketball team erased an eight-point second half deficit as the Bulls won their third straight game with an 80-74 victory over Ball State on Saturday afternoon.  The win improves the Bulls to 13-8 and 7-4 in MAC play.

It was a back and forth affair that saw 15 lead changes and 15 ties with both teams getting a lead by as many as eight.

The Bulls led by one with 14:26 left in the second half when the Cardinals (11-13, 6-7) went on a 9-0 run, giving Ball State its largest lead of the game at 56-48 with 11:00 left. The Bulls continued to trail 58-51 when the Bulls answered with a 10-0 run, picking up big threes from Jeenathan Williams and Maceo Jack, to pull ahead 61-58.

Buffalo would trail once again at 64-63 with 4:25 left, but jumper from Williams ignited a 13-4 run, giving the Bulls their largest lead of the afternoon at 76-68 with 1:17 left.  The Cardinals cut the Buffalo lead in half to four but couldn't get any closer.

Williams led all scorers with 24 points, while Josh Mballa (
pictured above) finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, including six offensive boards.  Mballa also finished with a game-high four blocks.

Ronaldo Segu added 13 points and six assists, while Jack finished with 10 points and two blocks.  Sophomore David Skogman just missed out on the double-double with nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Tra'von Fagan chipped in seven points and six boards off the bench, while Keishawn Brewton added three points and Curtis Jones had one point, two rebounds, and two assists.

Buffalo forced Ball State into 19 turnovers, the highest by a Division I opponent this season.  The Bulls also held the advantage on the glass again, outrebounding Ball State, 42-36.

Coming off a pair of blowouts, it was nice to see the Bulls finally hold their own in a tight one. UB’s last win with a margin of victory of six points or less was on Jan. 14—also vs. Ball State, albeit at the Cardinals’ Worthen Arena—and the Blue and White hadn’t won a closer contest since defeating North Texas, 69-66, on Nov. 15.

“Sometimes, when we won big the other night, you think everything’s going to run that way, and generally, that’s usually going to happen one game in your conference season,” UB coach Jim Whitesell told Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News. “You have one of those nights where everything goes your way, and the rim looks 20 feet wide and you’re making everything, and everything defensively is clicking. But this is much more the reality of conference play. That’s what we knew going into this.”

Up next: Here they are, on the road again

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Buffalo—holding steady at 114th in the NCAA NET rankings—goes on the road to face Bowling Green (12-13, 5-9). It’s the first stop in a two-game road swing that includes a visit to Ypsilanti to play Eastern Michigan for the second time in nine days.

The Falcons are coming off a 94-78 loss to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, and have dropped four of their last five. BGSU is led by fifth year senior swingman Daequan Plowden (pictured above), a 3rd-team All-MAC selection last season who leads the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounds (7.1 per game).

Guard Myron Gordon averages 11 points and 3.3 assists per game, while 6’9 junior Joe Reece is posting 11.5 points and over five boards per contest.

The game is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN+.


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Here’s the thing—when a team shoots 25 for 82 from the field (that’s just under 31 percent), they’re not going to win.

Northern Illinois—who entered Saturday’s home game against Buffalo as losers of three of the last five—only shot 38 percent, but managed to build a 20-8 first quarter lead that the Bulls (16-8, 10-4) could never quite overcome. The Huskies (10-12, 7-7) prevailed in overtime, 69-64, handing UB its first loss in six games.


The Huskies started the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take a double-digit three before (sophomore guard Dyaisha) Fair hit a pull-up jumper to stop the drought at the 6:45 mark. Later, Fair knocked down another triple and got a floater in the lane to drop to cut the NIU lead to 41-33 at the media timeout. Adebola Adeyeye gave the Bulls a bit of a spark off the bench as she powered up for a layup and then (senior forward Summer) Hemphill hit (freshman guard Georgia) Woolley for two to cut the lead to 45-37 but NIU held UB scoreless for the final two minutes of play as they took a 10-point lead at the end of the third. The Huskies shot 50% from the floor in the third quarter.

The teams traded baskets early in the fourth quarter as NIU maintained a 52-43 lead at the final media timeout. Buffalo used an 11-1 run, capped by buckets from Woolley and Hemphill and a three from Fair, to cut the lead to 53-50 and force an NIU timeout at the 2:43 mark. Later, a pair of free throws from Fair cut the lead to one with 1:35 to play. Woolley knocked down a corner three to tie the game at 55 with 26.5 seconds to go. The Bulls came up with a big stop and Fair raced up the court for the win, but her shot was blocked, and the game would go to overtime.

Fair went 1-of-2 at the line to give UB its first lead of the game 58-57 at the 3:02 mark but NIU answered with a three to go up 60-58. Fair then came up with a steal and hit Woolley for a transition bucket to tie the game at 60 but the Huskies scored on back-to-back possessions to go up 64-60 with just under a minute to play. Hemphill came up with a big offensive rebound and powered up for a layup to cut the lead to two with 50.6 seconds remaining and later converted a pair of free throws to cut lead back to two with 45 seconds to go but NIU was perfect from the line in the final minute to secure the victory.

Fair led Buffalo with 27 points while Hemphill recorded yet another double-double—her ninth of the season, with 12 points and 18 rebounds. Woolley added 15 points and eight boards.

It was a Big Three game for both teams, as NIU was led by A’Jah Davis’ 19 points and game-high 21 boards, Janae Poisson’s 26 points, and Jayden Marable’s 10 points and six rebounds.

Here’s the problem—the Bulls’ trio, who played 132 of 135 minutes, shot a combined 20-for-64 from the floor, and six-for-25 from three. Those Iverson-esque numbers belie the fact that the Bulls, for the second game in a row, actually played its reserves—four players saw minutes off the bench, including erstwhile starter Adebola Adeyeye, who’d been out since Jan. 24 with a knee injury.

While raw production has been there for the UB combo, the efficiency continues to bottom out. Despite a nice game against Eastern Michigan last week, (59 percent from the floor), the Big Three shot 37.5 percent against Western Michigan, 45 percent at Central Michigan, 43 percent at EMU, 37.5 percent against NIU on Jan. 29, 42 percent against Ball State, 37 percent at Ohio, 36 percent at Toledo…it’s not getting better.

What can you say? Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack has clearly decided this team is going to live or die with Fair, Hemphill, and Woolley grinding out every minute of every game, come hell, high water, or tired legs late in games.

We’ll see how it works out.

Up next: Vengeance in Muncie

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UB has a chance to get revenge on Ball State in its own house on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m. When last Buffalo faced the Cardinals (14-8, 7-5), BSU pulled out a 72-70 win at Alumni Arena—UB’s only home loss this season.

Kent State picked off Ball State, 64-61, on Saturday, snapping the Cardinals’ five-game winning streak. The Cardinals have made this run without star junior Anna Clephane, who averages a team-high 16.2 points per game but hasn’t played since Jan. 2. Three players—senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir, junior Sydney Freeman, and freshman Ally Becki (pictured above)—each average over 10 points. Becki, a legit Indiana high school basketball legend, also leads the team in rebounds (six) and assists (4.3) per game.

Buffalo is currently 76th in the NCAA NET rankings while BSU is 113th. The Bulls are in second place in the MAC behind Toledo (13-1), while Ball State is in fourth. UB is 23rd in the College Insider Women’s Mid-Major Top 25. The Cardinals received eight votes.

UB In 5
UB In 5
Ben Kirst