BUFFALO, NY - Forget the veterans, when it's time for someone to shine during a key moment, UB freshman guard Shannon Evans is the first in line for the opportunity.
The Bulls finished the game on an 18-7 run to push them past Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure, 78-73 in front of 4,652 at Alumni arena Saturday afternoon.
Evans and the Bulls found themselves trailing by six with 5:14 left when the three-point barrage began. Josh Freelove nailed a triple from the left corner, and Evans did the same on the next possession from the same spot, on the same play.
Bonnies guard Charlon Kloof gave his team the lead again, knocking down a clutch three, the team's only of the afternoon.
Evans once again delivered for the Bulls with an answer on the other end on the next possession to tie the game for the 13th time. After a Bonaventure missed three on the next possession, Bulls' sophomore guard, Jarryn Skeete nailed the fourth three-pointer in a road to give Buffalo a 72-69 lead, one they would not give up.
"I was very impressed with our team and how clutch we were in the second half," said Bulls head coach, Bobby Hurley. "Both (Jarryn Skeete and Shannon Evans) each made big three point shots. We didn't shoot the ball particularly well early in the game but late in the game when it mattered, these guys really stepped up and made big shots."
Evans scored 15 of his career-high 17 points in the second half. He played 14 minutes in the second half after senior point guard Jarod Oldham picked up his fourth foul 1:55 into the second session. Evans added three rebounds, two steals, and an assist to an impressive stat line.
"Well Shannon, I have a lot of confidence in his ability and his energy," said Hurley. "He's been doing it at both ends of the court since day one, so I trust him and he's going to be a great player in this program. He's had two great games back-to-back for us."
Evans' energy was clearly on display for the nearly 5,000 at Alumni Arena as every minute of game time went by, his excitement doubled.
"I just like to have fun," said Evans on his style of play. "When I'm on the court, it's fun."
"I encourage him to be a playmaker," said Hurley, who is very familiar with playing as a freshman during his time at Duke. "He's a playmaker, both ends of the floor. He's got such an electric personality, that when he's playing well, people like watching him play, and he excites his teammates and plays with great passion. When he's doing that, we're a better team."
Both Evans and Skeete finished with a team-high 17 points while Freelove and Javon McCrea chipped in with 13 and 10 point respectively.
Kloof scored 17 points for St. Bonaventure and was forced to deal with the loss of senior Matthew Wright early in the second half. Wright seemed to go down with a leg/anke injury, but it was unsure exactly what was wrong.
Buffalo switched it's defensive looks often throughout the first half and after Wright was injured. Hurley's squad played much more of a 2-3 zone to make other non-shooters beat them from the perimeter. The Bonnies were already without Jordan Gathers who missed his second consecutive game.
"It was difficult (to be without Wright), but we make no excuses," said St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt. "With Jordan (Gathers) and Matthew (Wright) out, that's just the way it goes. Injuries are part of the game but we were inexperienced at the end and that hurt us a little bit,"
Buffalo was able to squeak out the victory while out-rebounding the Bonnies by two (33-31), and coming up with defensive plays down the stretch.
"We got stops late in the game," said Hurley. "We switched and played some zone late and it worked well in our favor. We got through some possessions late in the game and were able to get critical stops."
Andell Cumberbatch noticed his second-consecutive double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Marquise Simmons also scored 16 points for the Bonnies, his third consecutive game in double-figures.
Javon McCrea scored six points in the first 4:39 of the game and was a perfect 3 of 3 on field goal attempts in the first half, all coming on completed dunks. He scored eight points in the first half, and was held to just two points in the second half and without a field goal attempt.
"Javon's an unselfish player," said Hurley. "He's committed to winning and he was as happy as anybody in the locker room to see us win despite not getting his normal shot attempts in a game."