Buffalo (0-0, 0-0 MAC) at Niagara (0-0, 0-0 MAAC)
November 11, 2016
Gallagher Center - 8:00 pm
Radio - Radio in Buffalo - 1520-AM WWKB
Television - None
The Opening Tip...
• The Bulls open up their 100th season of basketball on Friday night at Niagara as head coach Nate Oats looks to go 2-0 in season openers as a head coach. Buffalo is 53-46 all-time in season openers and the last time they opened the year against Niagara was during the 2001-02 season, a 63-62 loss at the Gallagher Center.
• With the Bulls and Purple Eagles not meeting on the hardwood last season, only two current UB players have ever played against Niagara, both coming during the 2014-15 season. Redshirt senior Raheem Johnson scored four points in 11 minutes of the bench for the Bulls, while junior Christian Pino played in the final minutes of action during the 88-62 win.
• Beginning on Friday night, the Bulls will play eight of their first nine games away from home, with the lone home contest coming on Nov. 17 against Nazareth. Besides that, UB will rack up the frequent flyer miles, traveling over 8,200 miles during non-conference play with most of those coming in the trip out to Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout. UB will have three games inside Alumni Arena during non-conference play, including Coppin State (Dec. 10) and Maine (Dec. 30).
• Niagara opens the 2016-17 campaign on Friday night after going 7-25 last season and 5-15 in conference play, falling in triple overtime to Canisius in the conference tournament. The Purple Eagles return six players from last year's team, including three starters, while adding five newcomers to the mix.
• The returning leading scorer for Niagara is Matt Scott, who played and started in 30 games for the Purple Eagles last season, averaging 15.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Marvin Prochet, who played in all 32 games, averaged 7.3 points per game.
• Last season was the first year since 1991-92 that the Bulls and Purple Eagles did not meet on the hardwood. The two teams had a chance to play each other in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic in Connecticut last November, but they did not meet in the tournament.
• The Purple Eagles are led by Chris Casey, who is beginning his fourth season on the sidelines at Niagara. Casey had successful stints as a Division I assistant coach at St. John's, Central Connecticut State and Saint Peter's, and as a Division II head coach at LIU Post and a Division III head coach at Rutgers-Newark.
Bulls Open Regular Season Friday Night At Niagara
The University at Buffalo men's basketball team will begin their 2016-17 regular season on Friday night at Niagara looking to avenge a 2013-14 loss at the Gallagher Center. Niagara holds a 56-31 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, but Buffalo has won five of the last six meetings between the two programs.
3-Peat After Me
The Bulls are looking to do something that no Mid-American Conference school has ever accomplished and that is win three straight MAC Tournament titles. Buffalo has already become the first team since Kent State to go in back-to-back seasons when the Golden Flashes did it in 2001 and 2002, but a third straight trip would make conference history. No Big 4 school has gone to three straight NCAA Tournament since Canisius in 1955-57.
Buffalo is one of only five programs to have won conference titles in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 joining Hampton (MEAC), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), Kentucky (SEC), and Gonzaga (WCC). Of that group, Gonzaga is the only one to have received three straight automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulls will be traveling over 8,200 miles during non-conference play this season, playing eight of their first nine regular season games away from home. UB will open the season with a short trip up to Niagara before making the trip down to Xavier in Cincinnati, OH. Following a home game vs. Nazareth on Nov. 17, UB will make the long trek to the Great White North when Buffalo heads to Anchorage, Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout. UB will make a quick stop in Omaha, NE on the way back to face Creighton and then will return to Western New York before making a trip down to St. Bonaventure (Dec. 3) and at Pittsburgh (Dec. 7). It will be the first of two straight trips to the Steel City for UB, who will face Robert Morris down there on Dec. 21.
Easy Blake Oven
Senior Blake Hamilton begins his final season after being one of five players named to the All-MAC East Division squad in the preseason. Hamilton was named to the All-MAC Third Team last season and enters 2016-17 as the Bulls returning leading scorer and rebounder at 13.7 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per contest. Hamilton had a stellar first season with UB in 2015-16, but it will be his shot at the end of the MAC Championship game that will always be remembered by Bulls fans. He had a career-high 24 points last season against Bowling Green and finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds at Ohio. Hamilton had a career-best 16 rebounds in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals against Miami (OH).
Hamilton has missed most of the preseason due to a broken non-shooting hand, but he is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
Senior Willie Conner as named the MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player and was also named to newly created All-Defensive team following his junior season. Conner also transferred in after playing his freshman season at Florida A&M and his sophomore year at Odessa Community College. In addition to his defensive prowess, Conner was also a dynamic three-point shooter for the Bulls as he hit 48 of them last year, including six in the MAC Quarterfinal win over Miami (OH), scoring a career-high 25 points. Conner had 24 points in the exhibtion win over Daemen.
Off the floor, Conner continues to be one of the top team leaders for the Bulls and he has been UB's team representative for its relationship with Team IMPACT, a non-profit organization that helps children forget about their illness and become part of something bigger, a team of friends.
It was a successful first year for sophomore CJ Massinburg, who was named to the All-Freshman team following his first year in the Blue and White. Massinburg proved early that he belonged, scoring a team-high 25 points in the exhibition contest against Daemen a year ago.
Over the course of the year, he averaged 11.3 points per game. His best game came against Ohio in February where he recorded 36 points vs. the Bobcats, the highest point total by a Buffalo player last year. His 396 points scored last year were the second most ever scored in a season by a UB freshman.
Massinburg had another stellar exhibition performance this year as he led all scorers with 27 points against Daemen, while adding seven rebounds and five assists,
Nick of Time
Another sophomore that had an outstanding first season for the Bulls was Nick Perkins, who continued to improve during each game of the 2015-16 season, culminating in his career-high 20 points in the NCAA Tournament game against Miami (OH). Perkins became the first ever UB player to score 20 points in an NCAA Tournament game and most of that was thanks to his career-high four three pointers in the contest.
In the exhibtion win over Daemen, Perkins had 25 points, including eight of those coming in the overtime period. Seven of those points came in a row, capped off on a dunk in which he was fouled and completed the four-point play.
The Bulls have three players on this year's team, who all played against each other during the 2014-15 Junior College year in NCJAA Region 5. Senior Willie Conner played at Odessa Community College, while fellow senior David Kadiri spent the year at South Plains Community College. The newest addition is redshirt sophomore Dontay Caruthers, who played his freshman year at Midland College, where he played under current UB assistant coach Bryan Hodgson. Kadiri had the best season of the bunch as he helped lead his squad to a national runner up finish. He had 13 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots in that national championship game.
The Bulls will welcome back one of their top shot blockers this season in redshirt senior Raheem Johnson, who missed nearly all of 2015-16 due to a foot injury, playing in just one game. During his first season with the Bulls in 2014-15, Johnson led the Bulls in blocked shots with 37, including a career-high four blocked shots against Kent State on Feb. 28, 2015.
The return of Johnson will give the Bulls a big rim protector that they missed last season. Johnson was part of just an eight-man rotation in 2014-15 that helped the Bulls to their first NCAA Tournament appearance. He played in all 33 games off the bench. Last season, Johnson was injured in the exhibition against Daemen and tried to come back, playing against Iowa State, before being shut down for the year.
Last season was the first year of competition for sophomore Ikenna Smart, who redshirted his first season at Buffalo in 2014-15. Last season, Smart played in all 35 games, starting 30 of them. He averaged 3.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while leading the team in blocked shots.
Sophomore Nikola Rackicevic, known affectionately by his teammates as Johnny, played in 20 games during his freshman season, scoring a career-high 14 points against Delaware. Rackicevic has been one of the bigger surprises for the Bulls, shooting the ball extremely well both over the summer on the foreign trip to the Bahamas, but also in the early part of this preseason.
This season, Rackicevic changed his number to #42 in honor of his mother, who passed away unexpectedly during his freshman season.
The Bulls have brought in an impressive freshmen class this year, including the services of point guard Davonta Jordan out of Cocoa, FL. He was the ninth best player in the state of Florida and the 30th best point guard nationally. Jordan played at Montverde Academy, which has produced a number of NBA Draft Lottery picks, including the first overall pick in this past year's draft Ben Simmons, and previous picks D'Angelo Russell (2nd Overall) and Joel Embiid (3rd Overall).
Another highlight to the UB freshmen class is power forward Quate McKinzie out of Burgaw, NC. McKinzie, who was named the Coastal Rivers Conference Player of the Year following his senior season, was ranked as the 11th best player in the state of North Carolina and the 42nd best power forward nationally.
Home Sweet Home
Despite not seeing much of Alumni Arena for the early part of non-conference season, the home arena has been a friendly one for the Bulls. In the three years since Nate Oats has been associated with men's basketball program, the Bulls are 34-9 at Alumni Arena. In fact, the Bulls are 86-28 inside Alumni Arena since the 2008-09 season and going back even further, UB is 135-46 at home since the 2004-05 season.
This summer the Bulls went on a foreign trip to Toronto and the Bahamas, getting 10 extra practice in over the summer and playing in four games. UB began the trip with an 84-76 win of the University of Guelph and then defeated York University, 87-69, before moving down to the Bahamas where they played two more games.
Buffalo defeated the College of Bahamas 81-67 before ending the trip with a 113-73 win over the Real Deal Shockers. All of the Bulls saw action during the foreign trip except for Davonta Jordan, who was a late addition to the squad this summer.
NCAA programs are allowed to take a foreign trip once every four years.
Last season, Nate Oats led the Bulls to an average of 77.4 points per game their highest scoring average since 1975-76. In fact, of the top 10 scoring seasons, only two of them have come since 1994-95 and 2,709 points scored by Buffalo last season were the most scored in the 99-year history of the program. Part of that was due in fact to the Bulls playing a school-record 35 games where they also set program records for field goals (915), field goals attempted (2096), 3-pointers (263), 3-pointers attempted (776), free throws (616), and free throws attempted (867). UB also recorded a program-record 1,362 rebounds last season.
Bulls Sign Three To National Letters Of Intent
Head men's basketball coach Nate Oats has announced that three players have signed national letters of intent to play at Buffalo during the 2017-18 season during the early signing period:
Jayvon Graves (6-3, PG, Akron, OH)
Jeremy Harris (6-7, Wing, Greensboro, NC/Gulf Coast College)
James Reese (64, SG, Columbia, SC)