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The 10 best things that happened in Buffalo Bulls Athletics in 2016

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NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament-Akron vs Buffalo Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

2016 was another amazing year for UB Athletics that saw records break and MAC Championships won. We can only hope that 2017 will be more of the same as many programs are ready to build on the successes of this year. So as we usher in the new year in a few days, let’s look back at what I think are the 10 best things that happened in UB Athletics in 2016.

Honorable Mentions

Cassie Shado

This was the hardest to leave off of the top-10 list simply because of how dominant she was. Becoming only the second Bull to ever hit at .400 and team second best in total points, Volleyball would’ve been in much worse shape this year without her.

9-0 Start for Women’s Basketball

This one’s still in progress, but WBB picked up right where they left off. The storyline: everyone can score on this loaded roster. The Bulls are now 17-2 dating back to last season.

Katie Weimer against Arkansas

The freshman phenom drove in 6 runs and had a grand slam in the fourth inning in UB’s close 15-14 loss to an SEC opponent. Weimer went on to hit .329 on the season and 11 more home runs. We’re happy for her, but it’s tough to see her transfer to greener pastures at Tennessee.

Dancing in Providence: Men’s Basketball’s second NCAA Tourney Appearance

After winning their second consecutive MAC Championship, Men’s Basketball kept up with #3 seed Miami in a game that showed what Nick Perkins is capable of. Perkins brought in 20 points and 6 rebounds in an effort that saw UB lose by only seven points.

Women’s Basketball vs. Akron in MAC Semi-finals

Everything went wrong for WBB in this game: Stephanie Reid fouls out with a technical, the Bulls were forced to play uptempo, and Akron had 3 players above 20 points in scoring. But, through the leadership of freshman Gabi Bade, the Bulls would pull this one out 88-87 to get to their first-ever MAC Championship appearance.

10. Ryan Cribbin picks up where Jon Jones left off

A year prior, UB fans were in awe over seeing their first-ever NCAA National Champion in Jon Jones. When Jones graduated, Ryan Cribbin had big shoes to fill and did a great job in doing that. In this year’s indoor MAC Championships, Cribbin hauled in a 18.12 metre throw to seal another UB MAC Championship.

With a big 18.17 metre performance, Cribbin brought home another MAC Championship in outdoor season. Not only did it assert Cribbin as one of the vital performers of last year’s Track and Field team, but it was UB’s 14th shot put MAC Championship in the last 16 that were handed out in indoor and outdoor competition. A 15th might be coming very soon.

9. Malayah White

Track and Field sweeps the first two spots in the countdown thanks to Malayah White on the women’s side. White broke three school records this year in the 60 metres, the 100 metres, and as a member of the record breaking 4x200m. To top it all off, she also brought a MAC Championship to Buffalo in the 60 metre dash—edging out EMU’s Jessica Harris by .06 seconds.

8. CJ “Buckets” Massinburg drops 36 over Ohio

UB Men’s Basketball had one of the most welcomed surprises in their second straight fairy tale season. First year head coach Nate Oats gave a two-star Dallas, Texas native a scholarship to come play for the Bulls. Oats and his staff were oh so close to red-shirting Massinburg when he came to Buffalo and Bulls fans are glad they didn’t.

CJ Massinburg became known as “CJ Buckets” after a 17 point effort versus nationally ranked Duke last year. From there, Bulls fans witnessed the rise of CJ Buckets throughout the winter but the freshman put on a spectacle on a cold February night. UB was blown out by Ohio on national tv and while most of the team seemed to have given up, CJ Massinburg wouldn’t quit. With 36 points on 11-18 shooting, Massinburg delivered one of the most inspirational performances of the year.

7. Jordan Johnson eviscerates Akron

Despite being one of the worst seasons in the history of UB Football, Bulls fans still had a few shining moments to remember. As an underused running back for his entire UB career, Jordan Johnson delivered the greatest performance any UB running back has ever had in the Bulls’ matchup with Akron.

On only 24 attempts, Johnson broke a 25 year old record for the most rushing yards in a single game. With 282 yards and two touchdowns, Johnson destroyed Akron and allowed UB to get their second and final win of the season by a 41-20 margin. If only he was given the chance to make it to 300 yards before being put on the bench for the rest of the game.

6. BRYAN LANTRY UPSETS #8 MACK MCGUIRE OF KENT STATE

Coming in at #6, UB Wrestling’s Bryan Lantry is featured in my favorite UB-related tweet of the year:

This tweet didn’t die in @UBBullRun’s notifications until six months later in September as people were still excited that “BRYAN LANTRY OF @UB_Wrestling JUST UPSET #8 MACK MCGUIRE OF KENT STATE”. Lantry’s win in the quarterfinals of the 133 lb. bracket of the MAC Championships only proved what’s to come for head coach John Stutzman’s and Lantry’s bright futures.

5. Women’s basketball dismantles Ohio three times

The Ohio Bobcats were hands down the best team in the MAC last year...at least until they went against Buffalo. UB had found themselves in the biggest slump of their season that was quickly falling apart. Snapping a five-game skid, the Bulls upsetted the best team in the conference in February 51-43—giving Coach Jack her 200th win. Ohio came into the game #25 in the coaches poll.

A trip to Athens and a MAC quarterfinals matchup later saw UB end the season with a 3-0 record over the Bobcats. What makes it even sweeter is that not only did the Bulls phase out Kiyanna Black — someone who could drop 30 a night on anyone — but the only time Ohio lost in MAC play was to Buffalo.

4. Megan Burns

While one of the greatest to ever don the blue and white pursues her athletic career at UB, many UB fans will never hear of her name until it’s too late. 2016 was quite the year for Megan Burns.

Burns took home three Mid-American Conference Championships in the 50 free, 100 free, and as a member of UB’s entry in the 800 free relay. Burns also became the first sophomore in UB Swimming and Diving history to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Receiving bids for the 50 free and and the 100 free, Burns would ultimate finish 22nd in the nation with a time of 22.33 in the 50 yard freestyle.

Burns continues to break school records and she’s in a great spot to be the best women’s swimmer in UB history with two years of eligibility remaining.

3. Wrestling upsets #22 Old Dominion for Stutzman’s first MAC win

After many years of UB’s wrestling program being on the ropes, last year saw head coach John Stutzman’s progress in reviving the program come to fruition. On January 22nd, Stutzman’s Bulls got their coach his first MAC dual win and over a ranked opponent nonetheless.

The 19-15 win was made possible thanks to a 14-3 major decision from Jake Gunning and through the help of Ariola, Cotten, and Lapi preventing major decision losses to their ranked opponents.

Not only was the win significant because it was Stutzman’s first MAC win, the Bulls used the momentum to have UB’s best record since the 2010-11 season.

2. Have yourself a year, Russell Cicerone

Russell Cicerone has graduated and will leave as the best Men’s Soccer player to ever play for the University at Buffalo. Cicerone’s year started off with a stint in the Premier Development League this past summer and he did not disappoint. In a league full of future pro talent, he lead with 16 goals and helped the Michigan Bucks win the PDL Championship. Not only did he score two goals in the championship game, one of them was the game winner in the 88th minute off of a PK.

Fall rolled around and Bulls fans saw Cicerone play in his final season for the Bulls. Cicerone opened up the season with a blistering 5 goal effort as UB torched the Daemen Wildcats 9-0. Finishing the season with 14 goals, 9 assists, and 37 points, Cicerone was oh so close to taking Buffalo to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance before the Bulls fell 2-1 to Akron in the MAC Championship.

Russell will now focus on his pro aspirations, as he’s been invited to the MLS combine that takes place on January 8-12 next year. The MLS Superdraft will be held on January 13 and chances are Cicerone will be drafted onto one of the 22 teams.

1. The greatest day in UB Athletics history

Saturday, March 12th is now enshrined as the greatest day in UB Athletics history. It was on this day that Buffalo won two team MAC Championships in the same arena and in the same sport of basketball.

Earlier in the afternoon, #8 seeded UB Women’s Basketball once again found themselves in an uptempo game that didn’t favor their style of play. The Bulls duked it out with #2 Central Michigan in the MAC tournament final and the game couldn’t be finished by the time regulation was over. CMU’s Jewel Cotton threw up two free throws to send the game into overtime.

Overtime ensued in dramatic fashion through Katherine Ups heroics from beyond the arc. With 3.4 seconds remaining, the Bulls were tied at 71 and double overtime looked imminent. But with two dribbles and a tossed up shot, Stephanie Reid would bank in the buzzer-beating game-winning shot to win the Bulls their first-ever MAC Championship.

The #3 Buffalo Bulls Men’s team found themselves in a rematch with #1 Akron. The Zips had beaten the Bulls in both matchups at Alumni and the J.A.R.. UB found themselves in a nice lead for much of the game thanks to strong play from CJ Massinburg and Blake Hamilton.

The Bulls squandered the lead and with just seconds left on the clock the game was tied up at 61. With 1.8 seconds to go, Blake Hamilton would hit the biggest shot of his life. A three-pointer dished to him from Nick Perkins won Buffalo their second consecutive Mid-American Conference title and ultimately sent the Bulls to their second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Somehow, some way, the University at Buffalo had swept Saturday, March 12th. UB fans would clamor through the streets of Cleveland for the rest of the night in celebration.

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