Ask Ronaldo Segu if he’s ever heard of Nazareth College before tonight.
"No," Segu said.
The Division I University at Buffalo Bulls battled (barely) against the Division III Nazareth Golden Flyers on Monday night. The Bulls scraped by the gaggle of good Christian boys 109-72 and led by 50 at a point in the second half.
But, the question begs to be asked to Buffalo head coach Jim Whitesell. What do you learn about your team when you win by 37 points against such a lesser opponent?
"I think the big thing you want to do is to try to play the right way, defend the right way, make the extra pass and I thought out guys did a good job there," Whitesell said. "I think the biggest thing our guys need to do is play hard, but also play relaxed. I didn’t think Friday we did that at all, we played tight the whole time."
UB is coming off a disappointing season-opening defeat to Dartmouth. Dartmouth, who was picked for last place in the Ivy League preseason poll, won 68-63. It wasn’t the start the Bulls wanted or needed this year.
Just seven months ago, Buffalo found itself in a Round of 32 match up against the national champion runner ups Texas Tech and on the tail-end of the two most successful seasons in program history. It was also the last game Nate Oats was the head coach and Whitesell was just an assistant.
Friday was the opening into the Whitesell era of UB men’s basketball. A younger, more athletic team, now coached by a more experienced head coach who’s adapted styles since his last head coaching job at Loyola Chicago in 2011.
It’s a clean slate for UB hoops. Friday’s loss was an end to their 26-game home winning streak, the second longest in the nation.
"Coach Whitesell talked to us about starting a new streak. This game was something to build our confidence heading into Saturday. I think we stepped up big tonight," Jayvon Graves said.
Saturday, Buffalo will play Harvard at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto at 2:30 p.m. Harvard is the opposite of Dartmouth and was ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top-25 poll.
"It’s a great test," Whitesell said. "It’s early in the season and certainly we need to have a lot of great prep going into Saturday afternoon. We got a lot of work to do to get ready."
Graves says the Bulls need to finish possessions on the defensive end in preparation for the Crimson. Even against Nazareth there were possessions where they scored at the end of the shot clock the Bulls wish they could have back.
Still, Buffalo excelled offensively enough for it to not be a problem. They knocked down 16 three pointers on 31 attempts, including Segu hitting 5-of-6 for an 83% clip.
"I’ve just been working on my shot in the offseason with the coaches and the staff as I try to add new pieces to my game," Segu said.
Segu’s passing ability has been well documented and he’s seemed to improve in that area as well with six assists in Monday’s game. He recorded 14 assists in a 111-73 exhibition over Daemen College.
Looming large over the program will be how they deal with the loss of four critical seniors. Buffalo’s brought in transfers to replace them and Whitesell says some are still getting their "sea legs" under them.
Couple that with the loss of center Brock Bertram due to a stress fracture in his foot, it leaves a large hole for the interior. Buffalo is attempting to redshirt David Skogman, a freshman, and rotated between transfers Josh Mballa and LaQuill Hardnet down low.
"We’re making some progress there with those guys. LaQuill redshirted at Cincinnati and it was good tonight to see him get a lot of minutes and Josh is kind of in the same spot," Whitesell said. "Losing Brock was kind of like that anchor that knew everything we do. Now you’re basically at two, one year guys, who are trying to learn on the fly there."
Buffalo got over the hump of the first win but it won’t be easy to have the same ease of success they had last season.