Immediate reactions: UB 98, Canisius 96 (OT)

Canisius 33 54 9 – 96
Buffalo 42 45 11 – 98

By Nick Veronica

What it means: This was a great college basketball game that both teams should be able to build on. Canisius and UB both looked like they were done for at different points in the final two minutes of regulation, but showed plenty of heart to rally. UB’s depth and size was on display while Canisius flashed its guard play. In the end it was a lapse in the backbone of Canisius’ defense that allowed UB the winning basket.

The Bulls have won three straight ahead of their Wednesday meeting with St. Bonaventure after dropping their first two Division I games of the year. Canisius is expected to be stronger this year than last season but was swept by UB and St. Bonaventure for the second year in a row. Only two conference games against Niagara remain on Canisius’ Big 4 slate.


How it happened: UB had the ball in a tie game as the final seconds ran off in overtime. Lamonte Bearden nearly lost control of the ball, but that scramble led to Canisius losing forward Nick Perkins under the hoop. A wide-open Perkins slammed the ball home and Canisius didn’t have enough time for a final shot.

Just when it looked like UB was about to put the game away in the second half, Canisius’ Jamal Reynolds missed an and-1 free throw down by two points with 1:43 to go – but refs blew the play dead, apparently thinking Reynolds was shooting two shots, and Canisius got the ball back via the possession arrow. The Griffs tied it on that possession and went ahead on the next. Then Jarryn Skeete hit a fade-away three-pointer with 6 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Kassius Robertson had a career-high 24 points to lead Canisius while Bearden had 18 for UB as six Bulls were in double figures.

UB opened the game on a  7-0 run and teams traded the lead most of the first half. Canisius was up 27-24 when McMillan picked up his 3rd foul … UB ended half on 18-6 run while he sat to take a nine-point lead into the locker room.

Series history: This was the highest-scoring game in Canisius-UB history, which dates back to 1912. Canisius won the only other overtime game between the teams, 77-63, in 1991. The all-time Canisius-UB series is now Canisius 31-17. Nate Oats won his first game against Canisius; Jim Baron is now 7-4 against UB and 2-2 against them with the Griffs.

Stat check: McMillan entered the game fifth nationally in scoring at 25.5 points per game. He finished with 16, bringing his average to 23.6.

Strong like Bulls: I didn’t realize how much size UB has, even on its bench. Nate Oats doesn’t use anyone under 6-foot-3. That’s helped UB’s bench to outscore its opponents’ bench in every game this season, and that continued Saturday, with UB’s bench outscoring Canisius’, 48-21. Rebounds were 42-39 Canisius, but UB’s size affected Canisius’ offense in other ways, deflecting shots and passes and clogging up lanes.

Crumpton tweaks knee: Canisius forward Jermaine Crumpton, playing in his second game of the year, went down holding his right knee with 12:16 left in the second half. He was able to limp off the court. … He checked back in with 8:31 to go and promptly took a charge but didn’t look 100 percent.

In the house: This game was played at First Niagara Center the last two years as part of the Big 4 Classic, but all four schools couldn’t reach an agreement for this season. Attendance Saturday was not immediately available, but I’m guessing an announced crowd of roughly 3,000, which included UB’s all-time leading scorer, Javon McCrea.

Starters: Canisius – McMillan, Robertson, Reynolds, Valenti, Bleeker. UB – Bearden, Conner, Skeete, Wigginton, Smart.

Next: UB hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, Canisius opens league play next Friday when Monmouth comes to Buffalo.


Gameday: Canisius at UB, 2 p.m.

By Nick Veronica

Canisius will make the 6 1/2-mile trip to UB Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. tipoff at Alumni Arena.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 2-2 overall, 0-1 road. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 158. RPI: 241.

University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Bulls: 3-2 overall, 2-2 vs. Division I teams, 0-0 home. Streak: W2. KenPom rank: 150. RPI: 166.

Vegas line: UB -1.5, over/under 153.5.

What’s at stake: Local bragging rights are always on the line when Big 4 teams meet, and this game is especially important for Canisius in that regard. The Griffs are coming off a four-point home loss to St. Bonaventure, so a loss Saturday would mean they’d have to sweep Niagara just to go .500 against local opponents. UB hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and doesn’t play Niagara, so this appears to be the more winnable of its Big 4 games this season.

Series history: Canisius leads the all-time series, 31-16, but UB won seven of the last 10.

Canisius players to watch: Start with Malcolm McMillan, the point guard who’s fifth nationally in scoring at 25.5 points per game (it would take a 37-point game would spring him to first). Jamal Reynolds is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, good for 49th in the country, and his 23 offensive rebounds rank 10th. Junior Phil Valenti scored 11 points in both of his first two games against UB.

UB players to watch: The Bulls have received very balanced scoring through five games, with Lamonte Bearden, Rodell Wigginton, Blake Hamilton and Willie Conner all averaging double-figures. Bearden leads the team at 13.0 ppg, and he’ll look to put up another strong game against the Griffs – he had his coming out party last year at First Niagara Center against Canisius, scoring a game-high 23 points.

Home opener, of sorts: UB hosted Division III Pitt-Bradford two weeks ago, but Saturday is Nate Oats’ first true home game against real competition. It’ll be nice for the Bulls to return home following four games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, and a good crowd should be on hand to welcome Oats, the first-year coach who’s been dealing with his wife’s cancer diagnosis.

Saturday’s game is also UB’s first basketball game since Allen Greene was named athletic director, following Danny White’s departure. Just don’t lobby Greene to remove UB’s “New York Bulls Initiative” – that’s not up to him.

Potpourri: I missed the Canisius-Bona game, but it looks like Jim Baron had some interesting things to say in his press conference:

How to follow the game: Tickets are available at the UB box office; streaming is available via ESPN3; tweets are available via my feed and probably most of the Big 4 basketball Twitter list (are you a writer who needs to be added? DM me); and immediate reactions will be posted here shortly after the final buzzer.

UB saw big attendance gain in 2014-15, but Bonnies still top draw

By Nick Veronica

UB saw the largest increase in average men’s basketball attendance of any local Division I team in 2014-15, drawing an extra 150 fans per home game as it earned a share of the MAC’s regular season title.

That’s according to the NCAA’s official attendance figures, which were released Monday.

St. Bonaventure led the Big 4 in home attendance again, drawing an average of 3,889 to the Reilly Center, but saw its lead shrink as UB gained and the Bonnies lost nearly 40 fans per game from 2013-14.

2014-15 Big 4 home attendance


Niagara saw the biggest drop in average attendance, losing 360 fans per night as the team won just four of its first 25 games. Canisius lost an average of 78 fans per game after MAAC MVP Billy Baron graduated.

Update: Niagara’s attendance numbers seem to have omitted the Big 4 Classic game against St. Bonaventure at First Niagara Center — attended by 7,191 fans — where Niagara was the home team. Had Niagara counted that game, its home attendance would’ve jumped to 1,502, an increase of almost 50 fans per game from 2013-14. Judging by number of reported home games, Canisius’ numbers do include its Big 4 Classic game against UB, and UB counted its FNC game in 2013-14. Niagara did not count its FNC game against Davidson in 2013-14, either.

Syracuse led the NCAA in attendance, drawing 26,253 a night, while North Carolina State saw the largest gain, drawing 2,795 more fans per game than in 2013-14.

The Atlantic 10 was 10th in attendance by conference, with an average of 5,107 fans at each home event. UB’s Mid-American Conference was 13th at 2,885 while the MAAC was 21st at 2,130. The MAC and MAAC each gained one place from the 2013-14 rankings while the A-10 remained in 10th.

Arizona State, where Bobby Hurley now coaches, drew 5,985 fans per game last season, which was good for 89th nationally.

UB basketball heads to Duke on Dec. 5

By Nick Veronica

UB has landed a Dec. 5 matchup against defending national champion Duke, continuing its streak of scheduling nonconference games against Goliaths of college basketball.

ublogoThe game was announced Friday in Duke’s schedule release. It will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. at a time yet to be determined.

UB had meetings with No. 1 Kentucky and No. 6 Wisconsin last season in athletic director Danny White’s second year on the job. UB played Texas A&M in White’s first season.

The UB-Duke matchup obviously loses some sizzle with former Blue Devil Bobby Hurley now coaching at Arizona State, but still has the connection of athletic directors: Duke AD Kevin White is Danny White’s father.

UB and Duke have never met in men’s basketball. The Bulls are 1-17 all-time against the ACC, with the win coming against Miami (Fla.) in 2006.


Javon McCrea named top 10 rookie in Europe

By Nick Veronica

Former UB Bull Javon McCrea was named one of European basketball’s top 10 rookies by the website Sportando, which covers overseas basketball.

McCrea, the former MAC Player of the Year, averaged 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game with Medi Bayreuth of the German league. His numbers were good for seventh in the league in scoring and 19th in rebounding.

Sportando writer Paolo Villa ranked McCrea ninth on his top 10 list. Here’s what he wrote about McCrea:

9) Javon McCrea, center, Bayreuth. He’ll have to improve his decision making and his mid-range shot, but his toughness in the paint is impressive for a player his size. He showed to be able to play bigger and to be willing to use his strong physique against taller players, fighting in the paint, rebounding, scoring on second chance opportunity and hustling on every possession. Foul trouble and shots selection sometimes limited his playing time, but his physical game and willingness to draw contacts in the paint were often crucial for his team.