Buffalo seniors go out in style
Honestly, I didn’t think they had it in them, but they proved me wrong, and I loved it. Rodney Pierce hit a three from the top of the arc with 25.2 seconds left in the second period to put Buffalo ahead to stay and John Boyer’s free throws capped a 10-point comeback over the final eight minutes of the game to give the UB men’s basketball team a 72-69 over visiting Ohio. It was the final home game for seniors Pierce, Boyer, Kambi Laleye, Sean Smiley, Max Boudreau, and Calvin Betts.
I have to admit that my thoughts on the game are kind of jumbled – the person I attended the game with apparently drank a liter of paint thinner before the game and the drunken ramblings made it extremely difficult for me to concentrate. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I go to a game, I go to watch, not listen to the person in the seat next to me toss around 80-decibel F-bombs in front of little kids and families. Choose your game partner well, sports fans!
Anyhow, I did manage to notice a couple things, so here you go:
- The backcourt of presumed MAC Freshman of the Year DJ Cooper and Bobcats leading scorer Armon Bassett did not shoot especially well (combined 9-23 from the floor, 4-12 from three, 24 total points), but man, are they slick. The duo did combine for 17 assists – Cooper had 11, and with his 12 points, missed a triple-double by two rebounds – and they made big men Kenneth Van Kemper (16 points), DeVaughn Washington (13 points) and Tommy Freeman (12 points) look good all night long with laser-like interior passes. Bassett, with his ultra-quick first move, had a couple drives through the UB defense that looked so casual it was like he was in the layup line. A junior transfer from Indiana, I’m not sure if Bassett has another year of eligibility left, but he and Cooper are a nasty combo.
- It’s going to be strange next season at Alumni Arena – Pierce, Betts, Boudreau and Smiley have been the heart and soul of this team for the past three seasons, in good times and bad. Boyer has come into his own over the past two years, becoming the floor general on the basketball court – good shooter, good passer, tough defense, solid court sense. He had 16 points and shot 4-6 from three, including some incredibly clutch shots in that crucial eight minute stretch to close the game. Pierce poured in 26 points against Ohio, another outstanding offensive effort the Buffalo native whose 19.2 points per game have him ranked among the top 100 scorers in the nation (although he somehow ended up without a rebound – weird). Betts and Smiley had awful shooting nights (combined 4-17, 1-10 from three), but combined for six steals and played tough defense on a night when Ohio – who shot 49% for the game – looked like it was going to run away with the game at times. Max was Max, chipping in nine points, adding a pair of assists and a couple boards, played a smart game, and settled the situation down at times when Mitchell Watt and Titus Robinson started doing their turnstile routine on defense. Laleye – well, he played three minutes and had the trillion on the score sheet. I don’t remember seeing him out there.
- Speaking of Watt – this guy fascinates me. He looked miserable at times, contributed just two points and three rebounds, and got the crap blocked out of his awkward little running-scoop shot at least twice. But – on the other hand – Mitchell had three blocks, including some brutal throwdowns of his own in crunch time. He’s a classic case of overthinking – when he works on instinct, he seems alright. When he takes that extra second to process, though, he’s vulnerable. Watt is still really raw, and the more he plays, and the more natural the game becomes to him, the better he’ll get. Let’s hope Reggie has him playing full-court games against the best competition available all summer long. Ben and Ben both volunteer to help out.
- The Buffalo (17-10 overall, 9-6 in the MAC) win and Miami’s loss to Kent State sets up a couple big games – UB v. Miami (12-17, 8-7) for third place in MAC East on March 4 and Kent State (22-8, 12-3) vs. Akron (22-8, 12-3) for the divisional title on March 5 (an ESPN2 game, by the way). Adding even more interest is the situation in the West – if Eastern Michigan (16-13, 8-7) beats Central Michigan (14-14, 8-7) to clinch the MAC West title and Western Michigan (15-14, 7-8) beats Ball State (15-13, 8-7, and lost to freaking TOLEDO on Saturday night), then – and I could be mistaken with my understanding of the MAC playoff picture – UB would clinch the fourth seed with a victory and earn a first-round playoff bye. Given the fact that the Bulls have proven they can lose to any team on any given night, that bye could be huge…so we shall see.