Eighteen hundred strong packed into the Koessler Athletic Center Tuesday night, expecting to see the top college basketball programs in Western New York duke it out.
Instead, they got the Byron Mulkey show.
Mulkey had a near-perfect game for the Bulls, dropping a career-high 23 points while propelling UB past Canisius, 81-64.
Mulkey finished the day 7-of-9 from the field and converted all eight of his free throw attempts. He didn’t miss a shot for almost the first 35 minutes of the game, going 7-for-7 until Tomas Vazquez-Simmons blocked his shot with 5:08 to play.
Buffalo’s Zach Filzen hit a 3-point shot 21 seconds into the game to open the scoring, and the Bulls never lost the lead the rest of the game. The closest Canisius came was tying it at 6-6, and never got closer than seven points in the second half.
“We didn’t play up to our standards,” Canisius head coach Tom Parrotta said. “They out-did us in every facet of the game.”
Did they ever. The 17-point winning margin was the most for UB over Canisius in nearly a century. The game tied the record the Bulls set in 1915—before the shot clock and 3-point line—when they beat Canisius 40-23.
The Bulls shot a blazing 64 percent from the field in the first half to take a commanding 42-29 lead into the locker room. Canisius had the ball stolen from them seven times in the first half, and while both teams committed 10 turnovers, UB cashed them in for 14 points, while the Griffs were only able to muster six.
Reggie Groves led Canisius at halftime with double-digit points for the second consecutive game, however, for second consecutive game, he also was shut out in the second half.
The Griffs went on a 6-0 run to start the second half and cut the deficit to 42-35, but UB answered with an 8-0 run to extend the lead even further.
UB (3-1) led by as many as 20 before closing out the game up by 17 points on Canisius (2-2). The Bulls finished the game shooting 56.9 percent, including 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
The Griffs shot over 42 percent in the game, but settled for too many bad shots and didn’t rebound nearly well enough to stay with Mulkey and the Bulls.
Elton Frazier led Canisius with 14 points (6-for-7), Julius Coles had 12, Groves had 10 and Greg Logins added eight. No Griff had more than five rebounds.
UB coach Reggie Witherspoon made it a priority to take Canisius point guard Gaby Belardo out of the game, and they had success with eliminating him. Belardo was held to just eight points (went 0-for-4 from 3-point range) and committed five turnovers.
Filzen added 13 points for UB, while Mitchell Watt had 12 and Jawaan Alston had nine. Javon McCrea had seven points and added nine rebounds and four steals on the night.
Parrotta was looking for size to put in to the game when Frazier got into foul trouble early, and opted for Chris Manhertz (6-6, 235) instead of Marial Dhal (7-3, 230). Manhertz played five minutes in the first half while Dhal did not get into the game.
UB players made it clear in the press conference that they wanted to get back at Canisius for what they called “disrespectful” actions after the Griffs’ 73-71 win at Alumni Arena last season. They were upset when several Canisius players made derogatory actions toward the UB logo on the court after the game.
Even McCrea, a freshman, said he was briefed on the incident. With the decisive win, Bulls players believe they got revenge on Canisius.
“We beat them pretty bad on their home court,” McCrea said.
Canisius is now 1-1 versus Big 4 opponents, with two MAAC games against Niagara remaining.
“Our plan was to sweep the series, go 4-0,” Parrotta said.
The Griffs have a week off until its next game, which will take place next Tuesday, Nov. 30 in Binghamton.