Buffalo (5-5, 0-0 MAC) vs. Canisius (6-5, 1-1 MAAC)
December 17, 2016
KeyBank Center - 3:30 pm
Radio - ESPN 1520-AM WWKB
Television - TWC Sports Channel
Online - Gogriffs.com (Subject to blackout in New York State)
The Opening Tip...
• The Bulls will be tipping it off against their cross-town rivals Canisius on Saturday afternoon as part of the Big Four Classic taking place at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo. As part of the afternoon affair, both Buffalo and Canisius will be wearing throwback uniforms for the game. The Bulls will be wearing their uniforms from the 1980's that are white and include a blue script writing of the word "Buffalo."
• Buffalo and Canisius have played down at the KeyBank Center (formally First Niagara Center) twice over their last three meetings with each school winning one of the contests. The Griffs took the first meeting during the 2013-14 season before the Bulls defeated Canisius 72-57 in 2014-15.
• Saturday will mark the final game against a Big 4 opponent this season for the Bulls. UB is currently 1-1 on the year after defeating Niagara, but falling against St. Bonaventure. The Bulls have not finished a season under .500 against the Big 4 since 2013-14. Buffalo has also won at least one game against a Big 4 school in every season since 2000-01.
• Canisius is 6-5 on the season following a 77-64 win over Albany on Monday night. The Golden Griffins have won three straight games and five of their last six contests. Canisius opened the season at nationally-ranked Kentucky, putting a scare into the Wildcats during the first half of play.
• Canisius has three players averaging in double figures led by Kassius Robertson, who is averaging 18.0 points per game and is shooting nearly 49% from three-point range. Jermaine Crumpton is averaging 15.4 points per contest, while Phil Valenti is averaging 12.4 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds per game. Through their first 11 games, the Golden Griffins have used the same stating lineup for 10 of those contests.
• Canisius is currently in the top 20 in the nation in assists per game, averaging 18.0 per contest. They are also in the top 20 in three pointers made with 102. Kassius Robertson is seventh nationally in three pointers made and 10 in 3-pointer made per game at 3.73.
• Reggie Witherspoon is in his first season as head coach at Canisius after spending the last two years as an assistant coach at Alabama and UT-Chattanooga. Prior to that, Witherspoon served as head coach at the University at Buffalo where he compiled a 196-228 record from 1999-2013. His 196 wins are third all time at UB and his 14 years as a head coach are tied for second. Witherspoon took over as Buffalo's interim head coach five games into the 1999-00 season after a two-year term as the head coach at Erie Community College. In his time leading the Kats, Witherspoon posted a 43-15 record.
Local Rivalry Awaits At KeyBank Center
Having snapped a three-game losing skid last week, the Bulls will be back in action for the first time since their win over Coppin State on Saturday afternoon when Buffalo faces Canisius in the Big Four Classic at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo. This will be the third time in the last four years that these two teams will meet downtown.
Buffalo has won the last two meetings against Canisius, including last year's 98-96 overtime victory at Alumni Arena. In 2014-15, the Bulls claimed a 72-57 victory at the downtown arena. The only current UB players that have faced Canisius downtown are senior Raheem Johnson, who had four points and three blocks in 15 minutes and junior Christian Pino, who played the final minute.
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 9,000 miles during non-conference play this season, having played eight of their first nine regular season games away from home, a stretch that concluded Wednesday at Pittsburgh. 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 made the long trek to the Great White North when Buffalo played in Anchorage, Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout. UB made a quick stop in Omaha, NE on the way back to face nationally-ranked Creighton and then returned to Western New York before making a trip down to St. Bonaventure this past Saturday afternoon. The road trip concluded Wednesday night at Pittsburgh. 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
Buffalo had one of its best three-point shooting days in school history on Dec. 10 in its 87-52 win over Coppin State at Alumni Arena. The Bulls went 15-of-30 from behind the arc with six different players hitting at least one three pointer. The 15 triples are the second most in school history in one game and the most since Buffalo had 14 last season in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament against Ohio. The only time UB had more than 15 threes in a game was back on Feb. 22, 1996 when it had 18 against Troy State.
Individually, senior Willie Conner hit a career-best eight three points, which is tied for third most in a single game in school history and the most since Shannon Evans had eight against Cornell on Jan. 3, 2015. Second place belongs to hall of famer Mike Martinho, who had 10 three pointers in that record-breaking game against Troy State. Eric Moore holds the school record of 11 set in 2007 against Bowling Green.
For The Record...Part Deux
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.
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. He then showed his scoring touch in the opener of the Great Alaska Shootout with a career-high 36 points against Alaska-Anchorage, including 29 of those in the second half. The 36 points are tied for 10th in school history for a single game and the most since current teammate CJ Massinburg had 36 last season against Ohio. The 36 points are also tied for eighth most in a single game in the 38-year history of the Great Alaska Shootout. Hamilton added 23 points and eight rebounds in the win over Weber State and he led all scorers in the Great Alaska Shootout field. Hamilton added 21 points against Creighton and 20 points at St. Bonaventure and he scored over 20 points in four of the six games on the previous road trip.
Senior Willie Conner was named the MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player and was also named to the 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 25 points.
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 clinched the game for Buffalo. In the Great Alaska Shootout opener, Conner had 12 points ans five assists, but it was his strong defense that helped shutdown Alaska-Anchorage's top player as Sekou Wiggs went just 3-of-18 from the field. Conner added 21 points against Creighton, the second time this year he hit the 20-point mark, and the first since the season opener. It has been five straight games where Conner has been given the defensive assignment of the opposing teams top player. On Saturday, he held St. Bonaventure's leading scorer Matt Mobley to just nine points, the first time this season Mobley failed to enter double figures.
Conner regained his scoring touch in the win over Coppin State as he tied his career-high with 28 points in the victory, hitting a career-high eight three pointers, tied for the third most in school history.
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 21 points in the win over Nazareth, adding eight rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots. Perkins recorded his first career double-double, and the first by a UB player this season, on Saturday night with 18 points and 10 rebounds against Weber State. Perkins established a new career high in scoring on Saturday afternoon at St. Bonaventure with 24 points, going 10-of-15 from the floor and tying his career high with four three pointers. Perkins followed that up with 23 points at ACC foe Pittsburgh, going 11-of-18 from the floor. The 11 field goals for Perkins were a career high.
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 made his regular season debut on Dec. 7 at Pittsburgh after missing the first eight games of the season due to mononucleosis. He made the most in hist return with 14 points, three rebounds, and five assists in 25 minutes off the bench. Massinburg rejoined the starting lineup for the first time this year and had 15 points and three assists in 22 minutes.
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. Jordan had a team-high six assists off the bench in the win over Alaska-Anchorage. Jordan tied his career high with seven assists on Friday night against Nevada, recording six of those in the first half. Jordan recorded a new career high with 10 assists against Creighton, becoming the first UB freshman with 10 assists in a game since Lamonte Bearden did it against Cornell on Jan. 3, 2015. Jordan re-entered the starting lineup against St. Bonaventure and recorded career highs in points (9) and rebounds (6), while adding seven assists. As of Dec. 15, Jordan was tied for 20th nationally with 58 total assists, fourth amongst freshmen. He is the only freshman from the MAC in the top 20.
Raheem The Dream
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 has picked up his scoring as of late, culminating with a career-high 14 points at nationally-ranked Creighton on 7-of-9 shooting. Johnson followed it up with 12 points against St. Bonaventure on a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor. He finished 19-of-24 (79.2%) from the field during the six games of the road trip.
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 36-9 at Alumni Arena. In fact, the Bulls are 88-28 inside Alumni Arena since the 2008-09 season and going back even further, UB is 137-46 at home since the 2004-05 season.
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 the 2,709 points scored by Buffalo last season were the most scored in the 99-year history of the program.
The Bulls finished in third place at the Great Alaska Shootout with a 2-1 record over their three contests in Anchorage. Senior Blake Hamilton led all scorers in the field averaging 24.3 points per game. He had a career-high 36 points against Alaska-Anchorage, tied for the eighth most in the 39-year history of the tournament.