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Bulls Back in Win Column

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Team Rights the Ship by Pulling Away Early in Second Half

Hardnett (1) entered the starting lineup on Tuesday in Muncie.
ubbulls.com

The University at Buffalo’s Men’s Basketball team continued a few trends from recent action on Tuesday night against the Ball State Cardinals in Worthen Arena in Muncie Ind. A few others were reversed.

With Brock Bertram again dealing with nagging foot problems and unavailable, LaQuill Hardnett was moved into the starting lineup and played a career high 33 minutes and seems be settling the debate about the Bulls fifth player for their best lineup.

Hardnett’s contributions and a relentless effort from frontcourt mate Josh Mballa led the Bulls to a 78-58 victory. They moved to 7-6 overall and 5-4 in MAC play. They’ll look to find some consistency in this up and down season on Saturday when they resume action against Miami at 5pm in Alumni Arena.

Buffalo again started sluggishly and fell behind by as much as 7 midway through the first half. That’s nothing new for this team as they’ve consistently fallen behind in games lately. The trend they succeeded in reversing is waiting until halftime to regroup. Going on an extended run put the Bulls up 33-32 at half.

Josh Mballa made a rare three during the run as part of another dominant performance against the Cardinals, following his 19 point, 19 rebound, six assist game from earlier in the year with 22 points, 16 rebounds and 5 steals. We’ll forgive Cardinals coach James Whitford if he doesn’t look forward to seeing Mballa again any time soon.

When We Knew This One Was Over

The surge continued in even more impressive fashion out of the break with the home team utilizing an early timeout to slow the run, to no effect. The 12-0 blitz put the cushion at 13 and UB essentially coasted home from there.

Point guard Ronaldo Segu maintained his torrid shooting from long distance going 5-9 from 3 point range on his way to 20 points and 4 assists in 38 minutes of action. As he continues to be the Bulls go-to marksman, the primary lineup goes stretches with Graves handling the ball and facilitating the offense, freeing Segu up to look for his shot.

Jeenathan Williams hit 15 points and 8 rebounds to continue his remarkably consistent streak. He has now scored at least 15 points and collected 6 caroms in every game so far this season. His game seems so complete and he looks so in control at times that you see the vision of the player the coaching staff thought he could be when they recruited him reveal itself. If the Bulls close this season or next into an extended postseason run, it will likely be the Rochester native leading the way.

The bench struggled again to provide much on either end of the floor in an unwelcome recurrence of another season long trend, combining for only 3 points among Nickelberry, Brewton, Fagan and Skogman. Coach Whitesell limited their minutes to a greater extent than he has recently, indicating we could be looking at an ‘Iron Five’ rotation down the stretch of the season. Especially if he proves comfortable continuing to give Hardnett 30-plus minutes. A return to health from Bertram could prove key.

After shooting only 34.5% overall in the first half, including 20% from long range and 56% from the charity stripe, the Bulls showed much better touch in the second stanza (50%, 56% and 91%, respectively) to win going away.