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UB BASKETBALL BACK TO WINNING WAYS; BOTH TEAMS IN ACTION TODAY
UB Men continue winning streak with easy victory over D3 St. John Fisher; UB Women notch second W of the season; More UB football personnel moves
Image from ubbulls.com
It’s four wins in a row now for the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team. Head coach Jim Whitesell’s bunch cruised to a 91-53 win over Division 3 foe St. John Fisher on Tuesday at Alumni Arena, a game in which 11 of the Bulls’ 12 active players got minutes and 10 of those 11 scored.
The University at Buffalo men's basketball team (5-4, 0-0 MAC) defeated St. John Fisher (3-5, 1-1 Empire 8) on Tuesday evening. The Bulls won by a score of 91-53 to extend their win streak to four games. Over the course of the win streak, Buffalo has scored 80 or more points.
The Bulls led wire to wire as they had the lead for 39:44. In the win, Buffalo had a season-high 27 assists. Both Armoni Foster and Kidtrell Blocker (pictured below) had six assists each. Curtis Jones added five to his season total.
Heading into the game, Buffalo ranked 24th in the nation in fast break points, averaging 15.88. The Bulls added 47 points to their season total as they continued to play at a fast pace throughout the evening. Buffalo forced 25 turnovers on the night, 19 of which the Bulls stole. The Bulls cashed in on those turnovers, scoring 35 points off the Cardinals' errors.
The Bulls worked on their long range as they made 14 of their 38 threes. Isaiah Adams, Curtis Jones, and Devin Ceaser each made three from downtown.
Ceaser had a career-high 17 points, as he led the Bulls in scoring. Zid Powell (13), Isaiah Adams (12), and LaQuill Hardnett (11) also finished in double figures.
Image from ubbulls.com
That’s as it should be against the Cardinals, a team that’s usually among the leaders in the Empire 8 but certainly not one that should put a scare into a competent Division 1 program.
Nine games in, and Buffalo’s already ahead of expectations. KenPom.com didn’t think the Bulls would win more than three of their first 13 games, and two of those anticipated victories—Fisher and SUNY Canton, which UB faces on Dec. 21—were against D3 teams.
Image from ubbulls.com
Speaking of KenPom.com, here are some numbers on the Bulls so far:
UB is ranked 165th overall in the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings, between Lipscomb and Cornell, if you’re interested. The team is currently fifth in adjusted tempo, which accounts for the number of possessions per 40 minutes. A higher rating means you’re playing faster.
The Bulls have faced the 104th toughest schedule. Opponents have included UConn, ranked fifth in the AP Top 25; Colgate, the 108th-ranked team on KenPom.com (and a UB victory); #72 James Madison; #74 Drake; #118 St. Bonaventure (another win); and #129 George Mason (yet another win). If Buffalo hadn’t shot 37 percent from the floor and 61 percent from the line in a four-point loss to #302 Howard, or surrendered a game-ending 15-2 run in an eight-point loss to Drake, the Bulls are likely a top-100 team. Not bad for a group that returned zero starters and only four reserves.
Savvy veteran: Guard Zid Powell has the highest usage rate on the team, touching the ball on over 28 percent of possessions. Powell is 19th in the country in drawing fouls, a handy skill to have, and one that propelled him to 23 points on 12-of-12 shooting from the line in the win over the Bonnies. He’s 14th in the Mid-American Conference in both scoring (14.1 points per game) and assists (2.8 per game).
The evolution of Curtis Jones: The sophomore guard has transformed himself, in his second season at UB, from a deep reserve good for solid defense and the occasional three into a statistical pinball machine. Jones is averaging 16.1 points and 2.9 assists per game, both 10th in the MAC. He’s scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games and is shooting 41 percent from three over that stretch. He owns the fourth-highest three-point shooting percentage (.367) of any player in the MAC with over 60 attempts.
Armoni earns it: At 70.2 percent, guard Armoni Foster (pictured above) has the 42nd-highest free throw rate in the nation—a number that measures how often a player is fouled relative to his shot attempts. Foster averages nine points a game, a third of which come from the line.
Throw it down, big man: 6’8 forward LaQuill Hardnett is 19-of-28 on two-point field goal attempts, 95th in D1 hoops. Hardnett is tied for 12th in the MAC (with Curtis Jones!) with 5.4 rebounds per game.
Backcourt thefts: Jones and Powell are ranked third and fourth in the MAC with 18 and 16 steals on the season, respectively.
Up Next: Tulane (5-3), Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
Image from tulanegreenwave.com
Get those gym trips and household chores out of the way early and watch Buffalo on Saturday against a fairly solid Green Wave squad.
Oh, wait! This game, part of the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta, actually isn’t on TV or available for streaming. You can listen to the late-morning matchup on 1520-AM in Western New York or on the Varsity App.
Tulane, 95th on KenPom.com and 94th on ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, is a member of the American Athletic Conference and has wins over UMBC (#230 in the ESPN BPI), McNeese State (#330), Charleston Southern (#310), Rhode Island (#250), and Louisiana-Monroe (#249).
The Wave’s lost to a Nevada team that’s probably on the NCAA Tournament bubble come March, and decent-to-good Western Kentucky and Fordham squads (the Rams, specifically, are red-hot, winners of nine in a row).
All of which is a long way of implying Tulane hasn’t played a team like the Bulls this season and won. KenPom.com only gives UB a 31 percent chance for the W, which seems low.
Some notes on the young men from New Orleans, courtesy of TulaneGreenWave.com:
Over the last two games (ULM & Fordham) Jaylen Forbes (pictured above) has averaged 20.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg and accumulated five steals. Forbes also shot 53.4 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc versus Fordham earning his way onto the AAC weekly honor roll. Forbes had a season high 26 points in Monday's game versus ULM. Shooting 57.1% from the field (8-14) and 50.5% from beyond the arc (6-12), Forbes has scored 20+ in three games so far this season.
Kevin Cross is 84 points away from 1,000 in his career and scored a career high 25 points versus Fordham on 12/3/22. Tylan Pope scored a career high 15 points versus Fordham on 12/3/22. Jalen Cook hit a career high in assists with eight versus ULM on 11/28/22.
After seven games, Tulane ranks first among AAC teams in scoring offense (78.1). As a team they hold the second-best field goal percentage at .475 and the best free
throw percentage at .795. Tulane also has the most assists in the league at 115. The Green Wave is averaging 9.5 more points per game through the first seven games of the season compared to last.
Tulane commits the fewest turnovers in the American (12th nationally) with just 80 as a team (10.0 per game).
Tulane was picked to finish fourth in the American Athletic Conference 2022-23 preseason poll.
Horns up! This could be a nice little out-of-conference win before facing a West Virginia team collecting votes in the AP Top 25 next Sunday in Morgantown.
UB Women Hang On to Beat Niagara, Earn Second Win of the Burke Era
Image from buffalonews.com
To paraphrase The Lovin’ Spoonful, it’s not always easy and it’s not always kind, but for the rebuilding University at Buffalo women’s basketball team, a win is a win. A win is what the Bulls (2-4) got earlier this week, knocking off Big 4 rival Niagara, 63-58.
The University at Buffalo women's basketball team (2-4, 0-0 MAC) showed poise and resiliency down the stretch as they picked up a big road win at Big 4 rival Niagara on Wednesday night at the Gallagher Center.
Fifth year guards Zakiyah Winfield and Jazmine Young led the Bulls with 17 points each. Winfield recorded her fourth double-double of the season as she added 14 rebounds, and the 17 points is a new career-high for Young. Re'Shawna Stone also scored in double figures with 12 points.
Niagara started the game in a full court press and caused havoc as they opened the game on a 7-0 run before the Bulls settled as Emerita Mashaire hit Kayla Salmons on the block for a layup and Winfield found Stone for a transition basket to spark a 6-0 run and cut the lead to one and force a Purple Eagles timeout at the 5:32 mark.
Niagara scored out of the break, but UB answered with a 7-0 run on a triple from Mashaire and a pair of fastbreak layups to take a 13-9 lead with just over two minutes to play. Buffalo continued to attack as Winfield got to the rim for two before Young hit Kiara Johnson in the paint for an easy bucket. Young put the exclamation point on the quarter as she drilled a three at the buzzer to give the Bulls a 21-14 lead at the end of the first. …
Young continued to make her presence known (into the fourth quarter) as she sliced to the basket and finished through contact for a pair of and-one buckets. Johnson came down with a huge rebound and hit both free throw attempts to put UB up 55-48 with just under five minutes to play. Winfield got in on the action as she blew by her defender and got and-and one bucket to give the Bulls a 59-52 lead. Niagara trimmed the UB lead to as few as three with under a minute to play but Buffalo was able to seal the game at the charity stripe.
The Bulls shot 54% from the floor and 42.9% from beyond the arc, both season-highs, on the night. UB scored 32 points in the paint and held a 33-26 edge on the glass while also scoring 15 points off Niagara turnovers and 19 fastbreak points, also a season-best.
Left out of this writeup is the fact that the officiating trio of Katlyn Tortorice, Brandon Appel, and Pastor Torres called 48 personal fouls and helped create a combined 40 turnovers with incessant traveling calls.
Was some of this due to bouts of sloppy play by both teams, each in the midst of rebuilds? Sure. But a lack of consistency on whistles around physical play in the paint, which, in the second half, turned into a steady stream of foul calls on any contact, sure felt like these refs were trying to prove a point to someone rather than call a clean game.
Regardless, UB battled through, and looked, at times, like a sharp, dangerous team capable of methodically slicing up an opponent. On the heels of a loss to 71-56 loss to Rhode Island in which Buffalo hung tough with the Rams after initially falling behind 12-0, the Bulls have strung together seven consecutive quarters of solid hoops.
It’s the little things that matter as you rebuild a culture.
“Togetherness—that's ability to handle adversity, staying together and not pouting,” first-year head coach Becky Burke told Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News after the game. “These guys just didn't say ‘die,’ and that's exactly what happened tonight. We came out with a win. We lost a couple early in the season because I think we just didn't handle adversity very well…I told them, ‘this could have been a 20-piece or more,’ but I'm actually glad that we had that adversity because I found out a lot more about them tonight through that, than if this were just a walk in the park and we walked out of here with an easy victory.”
Image from liuathletics.com
Up next for UB: Long Island University (2-7) pays a midday visit to Alumni Arena today at 2 p.m. (ESPN+). A quick scouting report:
The LIU Sharks are 2-7 overall after falling to Iona 64-55 on Monday night. The Sharks finished the 2021-22 season with a 9-18 overall record and a 9-9 conference mark, falling to Wagner in the first round of the NEC Tournament. LIU was selected to finish seventh in the NEC Preseason Poll. The Sharks are 1-0 against the MAC this season as they defeated Ohio in Athens in the season-opener. Reigning NEC Rookie of the Year and Preseason All-NEC selection Emaia O'Brien leads the Sharks in scoring at 11.9 ppg while adding 2.3 rpg and 2.0 apg. Ashley Austin is also averaging in double figures at 10.7 points per contest. The Sharks return just one of their top five scorers from a year ago in O'Brien. The Sharks are one of the youngest teams in the country with eight true freshmen on their roster.
Keep the momentum going! The UB women are in stretch in which six of its next nine opponents are under .500. It’s a great chance for this kaleidoscope of talent to bank some victories and come together as a program.
UB Football News: More to the Door; Vantrease Featured in Buffalo News Article
Image from ubbulls.com
The transfer portal continues to take its toll on the Buffalo football roster. The latest to try their hand in the portal include wide receiver Jamari Gassett (pictured above), defensive back Jibrahn Claude, offensive lineman Janik Ogunlade and center Jack Hasz.
With quarterbacks Matt Myers and Casey Case and tight end Trevor Borland entering the portal on opening day for transfers, that’s seven Bulls ready to take their talents elsewhere. Logic Hudgens, the d-back who left the team early in the season, is also in the portal, for a total of eight.
The Buffalo News reported 10 players are in the portal; not sure who the other two would be. Brooks School recruit and New England-area star WR/LB Jackson Connors-McCarthy did decommit from Buffalo this week on Twitter.
In other portal news, UB offered former Syracuse wide receiver Courtney Jackson a roster spot. Jackson led the Orange in receptions in 2021 and caught 15 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown in ‘22.
From College Station to Gainesville to Amherst to the NFL: Elijah Blades Is Going Pro
Image from Instagram.com
Cornerback Elijah Blades, a former four-star recruit who spent time at Texas A&M and Florida before landing in Buffalo this season, announced his intention to enter the National Football League draft via Instagram.
Blades was ranked 21st in run coverage among FBS cornerbacks in 2022 and recorded 27 tackles and defended for passes in seven games for the Bulls. An elite coverage corner early in the season, his grades faded after he returned from a nagging injury. We’ll see how he does when he’s healthy and rested.
Blades credited UB with providing him his best college experience. Nice. Best of luck, Elijah.
Kyle Vantrease Discusses the Buffalo Bowl Matchup
Image from gseagles.com
Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News wrote about former Bulls quarterback Kyle Vantrease’s roller coaster of emotions when he found out his current team, Georgia Southern, would face UB in the Camellia Bowl:
It will be the second time in three years he’ll play in a bowl game in Montgomery. Vantrease led the Bulls to the MAC Championship game in December of 2020, and to a 17-10 win against Marshall in the 2020 Camellia Bowl.
"I was looking at a lot of the projections and then I knew that because the Buffalo game got bumped back because of the weather, I knew that if they win, we would both be 6-6,” Vantrease said. “I kind of had a feeling that if there was an opportunity for that to happen, they would do it. But when it became official, I was just like, 'of course.' ”
At first, Vantrease sounded a little resigned when he said that.
Then, he quickly considered the upside of his final college football game, and the many layers that have made up his six seasons in college football.
"This is the perfect way to end my career, to play against the team and the program that I started it with,” Vantrease said. “I've got a lot of great friends up there still. I'll always be a Bull. I got a great degree from there. I'm still really proud of my time there, and I'm really proud of my time here and it's going be really, a really cool combination of all of my experiences, and the people and relationships and everything coming to a final close, at the same bowl that we won two years ago at Buffalo."
Image from ubbulls.com
Vantrease saw action in 33 games over his UB career. The team posted a 20-15 record from 2017 to 2021 in games in which he took a snap. Vantrease threw for 4,678 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in Buffalo.
“It adds to the story,” he explained. “It really does. A guy like James (Patterson), a guy like Max (Michel), those are guys that have been with me this entire time… We grew really close. Really great friendships. Me and James have been captains together at Buffalo, and we've been through a lot, in success and failure. So, to get out there and play against them, in a live setting and compete against them, there'll be some trash talk, but at the end of the day there's going to be hugs, there's going to be stories we'll be able to tell, and memories that we'll be able to keep with us forever.”
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