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A wild opening night for UB men's and women's basketball; the CMU MACtion preview
Image from ubbulls.com
University at Buffalo basketball is back, and it’s not messing around. The Buffalo men (1-0) won their home opener at Alumni Arena, 88-87, over Patriot League powerhouse Colgate; the women (0-1) dropped a heartbreaking 57-55 loss to hometown rival Canisius seven miles away at the Koessler Athletic Center. Only six of the 26 players on the combined rosters wore the Blue and White last season, and we’re already seeing potential fan favorites and heroes bubble up after just 40 minutes. Quite a night.
So Fresh & So Clean: UB Men Brush Past Colgate
With 12:59 left in the second period, Colgate—winner of the Patriot League three times in the past four years, the preseason pick to take the PL in 2022-23, home to fifth-year senior guard and arguably the best player in Red Raider history Tucker Richardson, and boasting a front court with four players 6’9 or taller—took a seven-point lead, 54-47, on a Sam Thomson free throw.
The Bulls had scored four points in the previous six minutes, and looked lost on offense. Colgate, which shot 61% in the first half, was running its stultifyingly efficient backdoor cuts and lulling its opponents into off-target jumpers. It’s the formula that’s made Red Raiders head coach Matt Langel one of the first names to come up when major programs start thinking about changes on their own bench.
Lucky #13: Buffalo, Meet Zid Powell
Image from ubbulls.com
And then, it all changed. Guard Zid Powell hit a three, followed by a fast-break layup he initiated after rebounding a Richardson miss, and forward Isaiah Adams drilled a three to give Buffalo a 54-51 lead with 11:31 left in the game. Neither team would lead by more than three points until Bulls forward LaQuill Hardnett gave UB a four-point lead on a free throw with six seconds left.
Suddenly—shockingly, perhaps—this motley collection of Division 1 transfers, junior college second-chancers, and a leftover group of benchwarmers had knocked off one of last season’s NCAA Tournament qualifiers.
Give a great deal of credit to Powell, a basketball nomad who’s played at six schools since leaving Overbrook High in West Philadelphia. Powell led all scorers with 24 points, collected five rebounds, five assists, and three steals, and was absolutely fearless attacking Colgate’s trees in the paint.
Powell threw down a nasty tomahawk dunk at the 7:32 mark, was fouled in the process, and tied the score at 64 on the ensuing free throw. He scored 11 points and had two assists in the final 10 minutes of the game.
Image from ubbulls.com
Sophomore guard Curtis Jones, one of the holdovers from last year’s squad, has shown massive improvement over the offseason, and posted 15 points, six assists, and five boards while playing tough defense on Richardson.
Junior Isaiah Adams (pictured above), a transfer from Central Florida, scored 13 points on five-of-10 shooting.
Freshman guard Devin Ceaser scored nine points in just nine minutes.
UB struggled from three, shooting just 30% on the game, but did shoot over 61% from the floor in the second half. The Buffalo bench outscored the Red Raiders’ reserves, 25-16, and limited the Colgate big men to just three second-chance points. Not too shabby.
While the men enjoyed a down-to-the-wire win, things were slightly different for the UB women.
A MAC vs. MAAC KAC Heart Attack
Image from twitter.com
Things weren’t quite as crisp downtown, where—under the sickly yellow lights of the Koessler Athletic Center1 — the Bulls let a late lead slip away, and then missed a pair of critical opportunities in the final minute on a Kiara Johnson turnover and two missed Zekiyah Winfield free throws to take the lead over a team Buffalo beat by 60 points last season.
Granted, every player from last year’s roster—save guard Jazmine Young, who scored five points—has moved on, but it’s still a head-spinning turn of events.
Or is it? New head coach Becky Burke’s Bulls—and second-year Canisius coach Sahar Nusseibeh’s Griffs, to be fair—played like a pair of CYO squads in the first half. The teams combined to shoot 18-of-50 from the floor in the first and second quarters, including three-for-18 from three-point range and 12-of-23 from the free throw line. Yikes.
The game changed in the second half as both teams sharpened up considerably, but Buffalo—after outscoring Canisius 19-9 in the third quarter to take a 44-36 lead—fell apart down the stretch.
Canisius hit back-to-back threes to cut the UB lead to four early in the fourth quarter, but (Buffalo guard Latrice) Perkins slashed to the basket for a tough layup through contact to limit the damage. Canisius continued to knock down shots, cutting the lead to two, but (Bulls forward Emerita) Mashaire answered with a big corner triple to give the Bulls a 51-46 lead at the final media timeout. It was a back-and-forth affair before Canisius used a 7-0 run to take a 55-53 lead with 2:39 to go. (UB guard Zakiyah) Winfield answered with a big bucket, stopping on a dime, and getting a runner to drop to pull UB within one with 1:10 remaining. Both teams then traded defensive stops and the Bulls got the ball under the basket with 3.2 seconds go and Winfield drew the shooting foul, but she missed both free throw attempts and that was the game.
Winfield was a bright spot for the Bulls as she recorded a double-double with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds.
If you’re looking for an atta-girl from UB coach Becky Burke, keep looking. Burke’s quotes to Rachel Lenzi of The Buffalo News:
I’m results-driven, and I want to win. Point-blank, period. It's unacceptable for Buffalo, and we have to be better, point-blank, period…
(Canisius) played like they had nothing to lose. Obviously, I haven't been here that long, but I think that's been their mindset against Buffalo. We have to lose the entitled, ‘we have Buffalo across the chest, we're just going to win games,’ because that is not the case this year, whatsoever…
We can't score 55 points and expect to win any basketball games this year. That's the end of the story. You can't shoot 14 for (26) for Division I basketball. You cannot give up 15 offensive rebounds. And those are all things that we can control.
We know who we are what we are, we’ve known that since June. And we have to fix some things that aren't necessarily on an X's and O's stat sheet right now. We've got some categories that are the toughness standpoint, competitiveness standpoint, togetherness standpoint that we really, really need to clean up and get better at.
The only choice we have is to get better. I'm not gonna hang my head. I'm not gonna sit here and blame one player, another player or anybody on my staff. It's on me ultimately, I'm the head coach and we have to be better.
Don’t expect a chill practice on Tuesday.
Up next: The UB men are at home against James Madison on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. (ESPN+); the women visit Stonehill in North Easton, Massachusetts, on Monday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.
UB Football Needs A Win This Wednesday. Here’s What They’re Up Against.
Image from ubbulls.com
Here’s a wrinkle: Central Michigan, Buffalo’s MACtion host on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN2), used three quarterbacks in its 35-22 win over Northern Illinois this past week.
"I think it got (NIU) a little bit off balance," McElwain said.
(Daniel) Richardson, who started, completed 13 of 22 passes for 150 yards and two TDs; (Jase) Bauer carried 14 times for 109 yards and two scores; and freshman Bert Emanuel Jr. rushed six times for 30 yards in his first collegiate appearance.
Richardson and Bauer split the majority of the Chippewas' 81 offensive snaps. Including Elzinga's fourth-down completion, CMU was 17-of-27 passing for 206 yards.
"Awesome game plan," Richardson said. "They weren't expecting it. Coach said we were going to mix it up a little bit and we were all fine with it. We're all behind each other, we all support each other, and getting the win is the most important thing and we got that."
It was the second consecutive game in which Bauer, a redshirt freshman from Ankeny, Iowa, rushed for 109 yards. Bauer, who also played extensively in the second half of CMU's 41-0 win over Bucknell in the third game of the season, has run 39 times for 273 yards, a 7 yard average.
Richardson's performance was particularly encouraging. He was intercepted once.
"it's just trusting my guys, trusting my footwork, and putting the ball where it needs to be," he said. "It's trusting my guys, that's really what it is. I didn't get touched all day. I had zero sacks. That's a plus right there. Good day."
Well, whatever works for CMU. The Chippewas were one of the surprises of the MAC in 2021 when they rolled off a 9-4 season, including a 6-2 mark in the Mid-American Conference, and posted a 24-21 Sun Bowl victory over Washington State.
Image from cmuchippewas.com
Central Michigan is again a big surprise this season: unfortunately, it’s because they’re currently 3-6, out of contention in the MAC West, have seen Lew Nichols III, the nation’s leading rusher with 1,848 yards in 2021, muddle his way to just 546 rushing yards and 3.4 yards per carry this year after missing two games with an injury, and, well, they’re are tinkering with three different quarterbacks.
Statistically, the defense is pretty good—ranked 41st in the country, and second in the nation in sacks—but haven’t been able to get the entire team on the same page often enough to beat anyone besides FCS Bucknell, MAC punching bag Akron, and down-on-their-luck Northern Illinois.
Image from cmuchippewas.com
That may be changing, thanks to a healthier Nichols (pictured above) and a newly-confident Richardson. From cm-life.com:
While Richardson passed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, the CMU offensive line kept him untouched throughout the game.
"I didn't get touched all day today," Richardson said. "I had zero sacks. I mean, that's a plus right there.”
In addition to being kept upright, Richardson benefited from sophomore running back Lew Nichols III’s return from injury.
That's my dog, my homeboy," Richardson said. “That's my guy right there. Just him getting back on the field, you know, (he's) awesome to have out there… (Nichols) running the ball brings another aspect, the defense got to watch out for him as well.”
With Richardson controlling the passing attack, Bauer (pictured above Nichols) displayed his versatility as he led CMU with 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
After his second-consecutive game eclipsing 100 rushing yards, Bauer said his trust is high in the offensive unit.
"(Offensive lineman Jamezz Kimbrough), he commands the whole offense up there," Bauer said. "So, you know, just running behind those guys, I got the biggest trust in the world with our O line, our tight ends, and running backs. I couldn't trust those guys more and they make my job easier. The holes are big and I just try to hit them for them.”
UB head coach Maurice Linguist—still smarting from last Tuesday’s loss to Ohio—is taking nothing for granted.
“They’re playing their best football,” he said in his weekly press conference. “You can’t necessarily look at the overall record of them. I think they’re better than their overall record. They just have really good athletes. You look at their running backs, they’re the real deal. I know Coach (Jim) McElwain very well…(he’s) going to have his team ready to play.
”Their team is still playing hard, and I think that’s very evident of them on film. They’re playing hard, they’re running downhill. The running backs play with power, play with speed. They have great length at the wide receiver position, and throw the ball down the field and over the top. We’ll keep working through the pieces of their offense.
“The number one thing they do (defensively) is get off the field on third down. They limit the big plays. They have athletes on all three levels. They stop the run. We have to get ready to get ourselves to go on the road and do all of the things that are involved in that process. We have to go be our best when our best is needed.”
Every MAC East game is now perilously consequential.
One-loss Ohio—who has the tiebreaker on Buffalo—plays Miami (Ohio) in the Battle of the Bricks tonight. The RedHawks are essentially out of the running with a 2-3 conference record but are a different team now that quarterback Brett Gabbert has returned.
One-loss Bowling Green—who have tiebreakers over none of the challengers in the MAC East—face Kent State, who also have three conference losses, but have the dangerous look of a wounded animal.
In fact, if the Golden Flashes win out—going 5-3 in the conference—and Buffalo loses to either CMU or Akron, Ohio loses two of its final three, and Bowling Green loses to Toledo or Ohio—KSU could still win the MAC East by dint of tiebreakers.
Of course, none of this matters if the Bulls just keep winning.
“ Coming off the road, at Ohio—obviously not playing our best. Disappointed with the results. But right back to the process,” Linguist said. “I’m very confident in the group of guys that we have and how we will respond to this moment, and how we’ll respond to what’s in front of us. Every game is critical. They all matter, but these matter that much more because we are in fighting to put ourselves in postseason play, fighting to put ourselves where we want to be in Detroit…(and) we’re looking forward to making those things true over the coming weeks.”
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I knock the KAC with love in my heart—I spent a lot of time there over the years. When I first moved to Buffalo, I lived at the corner of North and Linwood (above Chuck’s North Street Sub-Way—like, the sign was literally outside my window) and Canisius basketball was cheap neighborhood entertainment (buying a ticket was essentially optional). Ask me about the Tom Perrotta-era Griffs sometime, I have takes. Later, when Jim Baron took over, I went to almost every home game during the Billy Baron years—probably the last time Canisius had a legit chance to make the NCAA Tournament. It was also probably the last time my wife was interested in any sport; she was so upset by jeering Niagara fans at a Griffs-Eagles game at the Gallagher Center after Billy was knocked on his head on a hard drive to the basket that she jumped up, began screaming obscenities, and gave the NU student section the double birds. I’ve never been more proud.