Buffalo (2-1, 0-0 MAC) at Alaska-Anchorage (4-2, 0-0 GNAC)
November 23, 2016
Alaska Airlines Center - 11:00 pm EST
Radio - Radio in Buffalo - 1520-AM WWKB
Television - CBS Sports Network
The Opening Tip...
• The Bulls play their first ever game in the state of Alaska on Wednesday night as Buffalo faces Alaska-Anchorage in the opening round of the Great Alaska Shootout. The Shootout, which has been running continually since 1978, is the longest running in-season tournament in college basketball. Buffalo will become the sixth different team from the Mid-American Conference to play in the tournament, joining Ball State (2010), Central Michigan (2011), Eastern Michigan (1991), Ohio (1995), and Toledo (2015).
• The Bulls allowed just 38 points in their previous game, an 85-38 win over Nazareth. The 38 points allowed by the Bulls were their fewest in a game since February 1, 1979 when they allowed just 38 points against Fredonia State. In the win on Thursday, Buffalo surrendered just 13 points in the second half.
• Wednesday night's game will begin a stretch of six straight games away from home, UB's longest road trip of the season. Following three games in the Great Alaska Shootout, the Bulls will make a stop in Omaha on the way back to Western New York for a game at Creighton (11/29). After that, the Bulls will make stops at St. Bonaventure (12/3) and Pittsburgh (12/7) before returning home.
• Alaska-Anchorage is 4-2 on the season following two straight wins at the Seawolf Jamboree this past weekend. The Seawolves opened the weekend with a 75-50 win over BYU-Hawaii and then on Saturday evening defeated Cal State-Los Angeles, 73-68. Alaska-Anchorage was ranked #12 nationally in the preseason Division II poll.
• The Seawolves are led by Sekou Wiggs, who is averaging 23.2 points per game through the first six contest of the year. He is also the teams leader in three-pointers, hitting 16-of-39 so far. Corey Hammell is second on the team in scoring at 11.2 points per game and he is averaging nearly a double-double with 9.8 rebounds per contest. Alaska-Anchorage has used the same starting lineup for all six games this season and four of those players are averaging in double figures.
• Last season Alaska-Anchorage finished 21-11, but was upset as the #3 seed in the GNAC Tournament. Wiggs led the team in scoring as well last year, averaging 24.1 points per game over 32 contests.
• Rusty Osborn is in his 13th season as head coach at Alaska-Anchorage and his 26th year overall with the program. They have made five NCAA Tournament appearances and have defeated 10 Division I teams over his tenure. Before being named head coach, he was an assistant for the Seawolves for 13 years.
Bulls Open Play At Great Alaska Shootout
The Bulls open a six-game roadtrip on Wednesday night when they face Alaska-Anchorage in the opening round of the Great Alaska Shootout. This is the first ever meeting between the two programs. The Bulls have had success in mid-season exempt tournament as Buffalo won the Springfield Bracket of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic last season. Back in 2008, UB went 3-0 in Hawaii to claim the title at the Rainbow Classic.
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 opened the season with a 76-66 win at Niagara before falling at nationally-ranked Xavier. Following a victory over Nazareth in the home opener, 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.
For The Record
The Bulls had quite the historical evening during their home-opening victory against Nazareth. In the 85-38 win, UB allowed its fewest points in a game since Feb. 1, 1979 against Fredonia State. The Bulls also allowed 47 points fewer in the win over Nazareth than they did three days earlier at Xavier. The 47-point margin between two games is Buffalo's largest since the 1987-88 season when they allowed 125 points to St. Anselm in the season-opener and followed that up by allowing just 67 points in the next game against Queens College.
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 missed most of the preseason due to a broken non-shooting hand, but he returned to the starting lineup for the regular season opener at Niagara where he had 11 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in 26 minutes of action. Hamilton recorded a career-high 11 assists in the win over Nazareth, the most by a UB player so far this 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 exhibition 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.
Conner was one of the most productive players for the Bulls in the season-opener as he led the Bulls with 20 points, including four three-pointers. His four point play late in the second half on Friday night, clinched the game for Buffalo.
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 season-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 exhibition 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. He had 11 points and eight rebounds in the opener at Niagara. Perkins led the Bulls with 15 points and seven rebounds against nationally-ranked Xavier. He recorded a career-high with 21 points in the win over Nazareth, adding eight rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots.
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 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).
Jordan started the season-opener for the Bulls and he was impressive, finishing with six points and seven assists in 23 minutes. The seven assists were the most in a season-opener by a UB player since Alexi Vasiliev had 10 against the Purple Eagles on Nov. 19, 1999.
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.
McKinzie was solid in his debut off the bench with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He added four rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots. He finished with nine points against Nazareth, going a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc. McKinzie has converted on 10 of his first 11 shots this season, including 5-of-6 from three point range.
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. Johnson made his return to the lineup Friday night and had six points off the bench against Niagara.
Another newcomer that made a solid debut was redshirt sophomore Dontay Caruthers who had four points, three rebounds, and a team-high three steals, including a crucial one in the final 40 seconds of play. Caruthers picked up his first career start against Nazareth.
Caruthers, a Rochester native, played his freshman season at Midland College before spending last season at Indian Hills Community College. However, he was injured and missed 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.
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. Massinburg is currently out indefinitely with mononucleosis.
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 plus years since Nate Oats has been associated with men's basketball program, the Bulls are 35-9 at Alumni Arena. In fact, the Bulls are 87-28 inside Alumni Arena since the 2008-09 season and going back even further, UB is 136-46 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.