After beating Division II Alaska-Anchorage in the opening round, the Buffalo Bulls had a chance to advance to the final round of the Great Alaska Shootout. First, they needed to get past the Nevada Wolf Pack but after struggling on offense all night UB couldn’t get this one done.
At the beginning of the half, Buffalo couldn’t get any momentum going. In six minutes of play, Nevada got out to a 12-4 lead and it looked like it would be a long night for the Bulls. Buffalo really locked down on defense from there as they were able to rally back to a 20-20 tie with eight minutes left in the half.
UB can thank Blake Hamilton and Nick Perkins for staying in the game come half time. Although Hamilton hadn’t been shooting the ball well, he did a fantastic job of driving into the lane and drawing fouls. Perkins was shooting a strong 4-9 from the field.
The most refreshing part about this half of basketball was Buffalo’s lack of fouls and turnovers. The Bulls were taking care of the ball well, giving up 5 turnovers and no UB player had more than a single foul.
Both teams had locked down on defense by the end of the half, but Buffalo’s prowess at taking care of the ball would give them a slight edge. UB would hold a slight 33-30 advantage going into the half.
The second half picked up right where the first had left off. Both teams were excelling on defense while offense was a little harder to come by. In the early going Willie Conner and Raheem Johnson were doing their parts to help that department out. Conner had no problem slicing and dicing through the lane and he was able to get to the free throw line often. Had Raheem Johnson not committed some bad fouls, his offensive role would’ve been even greater.
Taking over for a subbed out Johnson, Ikenna Smart found his groove. Smart would have 10 points with 8 minutes left in the second half, including a dunk that was dished by Dontay Caruthers.
With seven minutes left in the game, Nevada pulled back into a slim 67-60 lead. The Wolf Pack were excelling from beyond the arc and Buffalo was trying to match them likewise to no success. Buffalo would need to find some defensive stops if they were going to win this game.
The defense needed to win the game came but Buffalo could not generate any offense in the final minutes. Neither team would score in the final four minutes of the games and Buffalo would miss their final seven shots of the game. Nevada would ultimately win this game 67-62.
The Bulls were lead by Blake Hamilton’s 14 points, but Hamilton struggled as he shot a meager 3-18 from the field. Willie Conner and Ikenna Smart had 12 and 10 respectively.
The Bulls will stay in Alaska to play the third place consolation game with the winner of Weber State/Iona tomorrow at 9:30PM EST. Both of those teams made it to the NCAA Tournament last year. The game will be broadcasted live on CBS Sports Network.