In an effort to keep my time drafting this article efficient, it would be easy to copy and paste much of what I wrote in my last write up with the game flow and outcome eerily similar.
Coach Jim Whitesell has to be pleased with his team after another high energy, low stress performance that pushed Buffalo into a nominal fourth place tie with Ohio at 7-4 in MAC play after an 86-54 blowout that probably wasn't as close as the score. Ohio has the tiebreaker as of now, but a rematch is forthcoming.
If you think of the North Campus of the University at Buffalo as it’s own little community, Friday night would have been a Chamber of Commerce Day in Alumni Arena, with good performances and contributions up and down the roster and good feelings all around. The Bench Bunch again delivered the energy to help the Bulls regular starting lineup to jump out to an early lead they would never relinquish.
Early and liberal use of the members of said bench allowed the starters, who have been relied on for heavy minutes at earlier stages of the season, a second consecutive game where none logged even 30 minutes. Beyond the minutes, though, the second team is finally providing reliable production when on the floor. Credit the staff for sticking with their commitment to opportunities for the rotational players and to the structure of the rotation, allowing every member of the team to understand their role and execute it.
In this game, the headliners were Travon Fagan with a second consecutive banner day (11 pts, 7 reb and 3-5 from distance in 17 min) and David Nickelberry. Nickelberry had probably his best game as a Bull, logging 21 minutes and notching 14 pts, 5 reb, 2 ast, 2 blocks and a steal. His contributions handling the ball as a college version of a point-foward have been critical in a season without expected depth PGs Malik Zachery and Chanse Robinson.
Among the mainstays, Jayvon Graves continued a bit of a late season surge with a team high 16 points, with two threes and two impressive fast break dunks, also contributing 4 asts to only 1 t/o along with 3 reb and a block and a steal each, in a high end all around effort. He had another block attempt that would have been a real highlight, meeting a Bronco big at the rim, but was, dubiously, called for a foul.
Josh Mballa logged another double double with 15 and 12, with 4 of those rebounds on the offensive boards. Defensively he excelled in containing Western big man Greg Lee who had been on a prolific recent run.
When We Knew it Was Over
After an extended run in the middle of the 2H bulged the lead, things got really fun late as little used guard Savion Gallion and walk-ons Jamon Bivens and Lucas Saleh all got on the court with significant time on the clock. This completed the circle as the regulars on the bench at this point returned the favor of supplying energy, celebrating every hoop for their teammates whose contributions are often limited to practice. For a minute, I thought I saw Christian Pino at the scorer’s table preparing to check in.
B. Artis White impressed in defeat for the visitors from Kalamazoo, leading them with 18 points, 2 asts and 2 steals. Only a sophomore, the PG position looks to be in good hands moving forward for the rebuilding Broncos of Western Michigan under first year coach Clayton Bates.
The only blemishes were that Brock Bertram continued his absence with continuing foot issues and was joined on the DNP/Injury list by Keishawn Brewton, who was spotted with a brace on his (shooting) wrist.
Buffalo continues their directional Michigan schedule rotation Tuesday, visiting Ypsilanti to take on the Eagles of Eastern Michigan. They will look to avoid a landmine against the last place team and to keep their momentum rolling. Time will tell if the Central Michigan tilt originally schedule for last night will be rescheduled.
Things get considerably tougher after that with Toledo, Ohio, Akron and Kent State, the top four teams in the MAC standings, scheduled to close out the season.