In their two most recent wins against Robert Morris and Drexel, the UB Men's Basketball trailed for just 1:08 combined, ceding the first basket in each game before leading throughout. Niagara at 1-6 coming into tonight may be worse than both teams, but teams always bring a little extra for a rivalry game.
After spotting the Purple Eagles a pregame 1-0 lead thanks to a warmup technical assessed when Shannon Evans dunked less than 20 minutes before tip, the Bulls overcame in a sloppy start for both sides and threatened to pull away time and time again before breaking the visitors five minutes into the second and ultimately sealing an 88-62 victory.
The hallmark of the first half was simply sloppy play, as the two teams combined for 8 turnovers before the first media timeout, and UB's offense could never quite pull away. Through the struggles, however, shone the effort of senior Xavier Ford. For the second consecutive game, Ford was the star of the early going tonight putting up 9 points and 8 rebounds in the first stanza alone.
At the half UB hadn't quite pulled away but used a great set play at the buzzer to build a 10-point lead on an Bearden-to-Evans-to-nothing-but-net three. Jarryn Skeete joined Ford atop the leaderboard with 9 points on three threes himsefl, and the Bulls enjoyed a 24-14 advantage on the boards.
Out of the break, the dam broke. UB scored 6 straight points, Shannon Evans took over with a couple of pretty drives into the lane, and Niagara couldn't respond. Everything started to click for the Bulls, who hit 60% from the floor and did not miss from the line in the first ten minutes en route to a 61-42 lead.
Coasting to the 26-point edge at the finish, Buffalo was again led by Justin Moss, who had 24 points and 11 boards. Evans overcame early poor shooting to finish with 20 himself, and he and Lamonte Bearden added 8 and 7 assists, respectively, to their 15 combined against Drexel earlier in the week.
Emile Blackman led Niagara, scoring 15, but the Purple Eagles shot just 15-27 from the line and were no match for UB's 48-27 advantage on the boards. Buffalo took advantage of 28 NU fouls to shoot 27-36 from the line themselves.
With the win, men's basketball seals an undefeated week for UB athletics against Big 4 competition: the Women's Basketball team beat Bonaventure on Monday, while Swimming and Diving dispatched Canisius yesterday. UB at 7-2 is also off to their best nine-game start since 2005-06, when the team started 8-1.
Do you think Bonaventure beats this team if Wigginton and Ford are healthy? I don't.
UB is done until after Christmas. They'll travel to Wisconsin to take on Frank Kaminsky and the Badgers on Sunday, 28 December.