After a one year hiatus, the Big 4 Classic returned this year to KeyBank Center. Sitting at 5-5 overall, Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball went downtown to face crosstown rival Canisius and former head coach Reggie Witherspoon. UB fought with grit until the very end but ran out of the gas as the game stretched into overtime. The Bulls would ultimately fall to Canisius 94-87.
The first half opened with a high scoring affair from the Bulls. UB didn’t have a problem finding a way to the basket as Nick Perkins and Willie Conner destroyed the Golden Griffins from beyond the arc, going 4-5 combined to start things off. UB’s offensive chemistry easily looked like that of a top-four MAC team to start.
UB’s defense quickly became a problem from there. Although Canisius has one of the lesser defenses in the nation, their offense has been on pace with that of a quality mid-major. Jermaine Crumpton went to work and hauled in stats similar to Nick Perkins to bring the Golden Griffins within fighting difference. UB struggled with turnovers in this stretch but soon cleaned it up before the half was over.
Closing out the half, neither team really struck an advantage on offense as both teams were shooting lights out. But, Buffalo was winning the free throw battle and that gave them the 49-46 lead after the first twenty minutes.
Buffalo and Canisius continued to stay neck and neck in the second half. The trend this far in was offense, but both teams decided to lock down defensively for this twenty minutes. Both teams had shot under 40% before the final 10 minutes. UB tried to get a lot of their looks inside but Canisius didn’t make that an easy task as they created a logjam in the interior.
Without Nick Perkins due to foul trouble, Buffalo had to find some more scoring options. The Bulls saw a lot from Willie Conner in the meantime as he shot off the dribble and sliced through the lane with no problem. Raheem Johnson also put in a lot of valuable minutes with strong interior defense and a couple of dunks in transition.
Still with 5:46 remaining in the half, Buffalo was still in a gridlock with Canisius. Leading with a small 74-71 margin, UB still had to find a way to put the Golden Griffins away. Later the game was tied at 81 and UB couldn’t find the edge and the game would ultimately be stretched into overtime for the second straight year.
Overtime ensued and Buffalo came out flat despite the Griffs having the disadvantage in terms of fouls. Canisius rallied and Buffalo couldn’t find any consistent offense to at least push the game into double overtime. The game was all but over when Davonta Jordan shot an airball on a free throw attempt. It was soon over and Canisius had won 94-87.
Buffalo had four guys with 15 or more points—lead by Blake Hamilton’s 19. Hamilton would also finish the game with 11 rebounds. Perkins, Conner, and Massinburg all had 18, 17, and 16 respectively. Raheem Johnson was the only other player to get past three points with 8 on the night.
With the loss, Buffalo now moves to 5-6 on the season. They’re back in action in a road trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take on Robert Morris. The Bulls will square off at 7:00 PM.