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.

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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.

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