Jan 21, 2019
#14/#14 Buffalo (17-1, 5-0 MAC) at Northern Illinois (10-8, 3-2 MAC)
January 22, 2019
Convocation Center - 8:00 pm ET
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• Buffalo will begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday night at Northern Illinois, a stretch where five of the next seven games will be on the road. UB had won 13 straight against NIU until the Huskies claimed the last meeting, a 90-88 overtime contest in DeKalb last year.
• Buffalo will be the highest ranked team ever to play in DeKalb and the first ranked team to play at Northern Illinois since #18 Temple visited during the 2009-10 season.
• UB moved up to 14th in the latest AP Top 25 rankings on Monday, the 11th straight week the Bulls have been in the polls. The 11 straight weeks tie the MAC record for most consecutive weeks ranked with Bowling Green, who did it in the 1961-62 season.
• At 17-1, the Bulls have their best record in school history through 18 games. UB had a 15-1 season in 1929-30 and a 15-0 campaign in 1930-31, but have never won 17 of their first 18 games to start a year. UB is the first MAC team to start a season 17-1 or better since Western Michigan started 19-0 in 1975-76.
• Buffalo moved up to 10, a season best in the latest NET rankings release by the NCAA. UB is looking to build on its 7-1 road record this weekend, which is the most true road victories of any team in the top 50 of the NET. NIU is currently ranked at 135 in the NET, making them a Quad 2 opponent for Tuesday night's game.
• Northern Illinois is 10-8 on the year and 3-2 in league play following a 78-68 loss at Kent State on Saturday afternoon. NIU had won its first three MAC games before falling to Central Michigan at home last week. The Huskies are 6-2 this season at the Convocation Center.
• The Huskies have three players averaging in double figures, including Eugene German, who is the league's leading scorer at 20.7 points per game, shooting just under 44% from three. Levi Bradley is second on the team at 15.8 points per game, while Dante Thorpe adds 12.8 points per contest. James Lacey leads NIU with 7.3 rebounds per game.
• Northern Illinois was picked to finish in fifth place in the MAC West in the preseason poll. The Huskies are currently second in the MAC in field goal percentage as they are shooting .499 from the floor and they are also second from behind the arc as they are shooting .373 from three-point range.
• Mark Montgomery is in his eighth season as head coach at Northern Illinois. In 25 seasons in college basketball, as a player and a head coach, Montgomery has been a part of 15 postseason teams. In seven seasons as head coach at NIU, Montgomery rebuilt a program that had produced just two winning seasons in the 15 years prior to his arrival and led it to just its fourth-ever postseason appearance, and the second-most wins in school history. During his 10 seasons on Hall of Famer Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan State from 2001-12, the Spartans made 10 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and three Final Four appearances. He helped coach 26 All-Big Ten players at Michigan State and six players that went on to be selected in the National Basketball Association Draft, while on the bench for 235 MSU wins - an average of 23.5 victories per season. Montgomery began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Central Michigan where he became a member of Jay Smith's first coaching staff in 1997-98. Montgomery was a four-year letterwinner for Jud Heathcote at Michigan State from 1988-92.
Bulls Head To MAC's West Coast Looking To Stay Unbeaten
The furthest east meets the furthest west when Buffalo travels to Northern Illinois on Tuesday night. UB is looking for its sixth straight MAC victory and its ninth straight dating back to last season. Buffalo is looking to avenge one of its three MAC losses from last season when Northern Illinois defeated the Bulls in overtime, 90-88, in DeKalb, snapping a 13-game winning streak for UB over NIU.
Northern Illinois is looking to halt a two-game losing streak in league play after winning its first three league contests, including the first two on the road at Ohio and at Miami. So far, the RedHawks are the only common opponent in league play between Buffalo and Northern Illinois.
UB is playing a MAC West team of the fifth time in six league games, and overall the Bulls will face the MAC West six times in the first eight contests.
Buffalo went over 100 points for the second time this season, tying a season high with 110 points against Toledo on Tuesday, its most ever against a MAC opponent. Now in his fourth season, head coach Nate Oats had recorded 100 or more points eight times, including seven against Division 1 opponents. Prior to Coach Oats taking the job, it took Buffalo between 1993-94 through 2014-15 to score 100 points seven times against D-I schools.
Tuesday marked the fifth time Buffalo has scored 100 points in a MAC game since 2015-16 when Coach Oats took over. All five of those performances have come in regulation. Central Michigan is the only other team to do it five times since 2015-16, but used overtime in four of those occurrences. Ball State had done it three times (two in overtime), and no other MAC school has done it more than twice.
UB In the National Rankings
Buffalo has become the 10th different MAC program to be ranked in the national AP poll in their history. All schools have been ranked at least once, except Akron and Central Michigan, however since 2000, only Kent State and Ball State have found their way into the national rankings. The Golden Flashes were the last program to do it, as they were ranked #23 in 2008, while Ball State spent four weeks in the polls during the 2001-02 season, peaking at #15. This is the 11th straight week in the AP poll for Buffalo tying the 1961-62 Bowling Green Falcons for the longest consecutive stretch ever for a MAC team.
Three MAC programs have been in the Top 10 in their program's history as Bowling Green was seventh back during the 1961-62 season. Toledo, who has spent 22 weeks in the Top 25 in their history, was ninth in 1963-64, and Ohio has the highest ranking ever by a MAC school as they were fifth for two weeks in 1969-70.
As for Western New York programs in the Big 4, Canisius was ranked for 11 weeks during the 1956-57 season, while Niagara has spent 20 weeks in the polls, most recently in the 1969-70 season. St. Bonaventure has had the most success in the AP Poll as they have spent 82 weeks ranked over their history, ranking as high at #2 in the country. The last time they were ranked was during the 1970-71 season 48 years ago.
Massinburg Named To Oscar Robertson Midseason Watch List
Senior CJ Massinburg has done it all so far through the non-conference portion of his final season including being just one of 20 players nationally named to the Oscar Robertson Midseason Watch List, which is awarded to the nation's top player. Most recently had was also named to the midseason watch lists for the Lute Olsen Award, given to the nation's top player and the Lou Henson Award, given to the nation's top mid-major player. He had a career night in the win at nationally-ranked West Virgina as he scored 43 points and 14 rebounds. His 43 points are the sixth highest total by a player in the nation this year.
Massinburg is only the second player to surpass the 40-point mark against a Bob Huggins coached team at West Virginia and he is the first to do it since Andrew Wiggins of Kansas had 41 points on March 8, 2014. He is just the 10th player in that time frame to have at least 14 rebounds in a game against West Virginia and the first to do it from the guard position.
Massinburg then recorded the first triple-double of his career and just the second in school history in the win over Le Moyne as he had 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Dolphins. The triple double was the first for a UB player at Alumni Arena and the first since Shannon Evans had one at Binghamton on Dec. 30, 2014. Massinburg is one of 15 players in the nation this year with a triple double.
Massinburg was named the MAC East Player of the Week after he had a game-high 25 points against Syracuse as he moved into fifth place on UB's all-time scoring list and he added 18 more at Marquette. He led the Bulls with 31 points in the win over Eastern Michigan on Friday night. He now has 1,656 career points and next up on the list for Massinburg is Mike Martinho (1994-98), who had 1,708 points in his career. Massinburg is one of just three players in school history with over 1,500 career points and 600 career rebounds, joining Javon McRea and Yassin Idbihi. Massinburg is one of only three players currently in the nation with over 1,600 career points, 600 career rebounds, and 250 career assists.
I Love The 80's
Last season the Bulls averaged 84.6 points per game, the highest scoring total in school history for a single season and this year they are on pace to surpass that, averaging 85.1 points per game, which is 11th in the nation. UB scored 80 points in 26 of its 36 games last season, which was tied for the second most 80-point performances with Duke. Villanova was the only team in the country with more 80-point performances at 29.
No other MAC team had more than 16 80-point games last season and that was Central Michigan and Toledo.
Buffalo continued right where it left off in the season opener, scoring 82 points in the win over St. Francis and 99 points against West Virginia. UB exploded for 110 points in the victory over Dartmouth and had over 80 points in each of the two games in Ireland, including 96 against Milwaukee. Buffalo scored over 80 in back-to-back games to end non -conference play with 85 at Marquette and 87 at Canisius. Following the 110 point outburst against Toledo, the Bulls have now scored 80 or more points 66 times in the 121 games with Nate Oats as head coach. The Bulls are 57-9 in those games when scoring at least 80 points. UB has reached it 12 times this year in 18 games, the seventh highest total in the nation.
History On The Horizon
The Bulls are looking to accomplish something this season that has never been done in Mid-American Conference history as no MAC school has ever won four conference tournament titles in a five-year period. Buffalo became the first MAC school to win three in a four-year period since Kent State did it in 1999, 2001, 2002. The MAC Tournament dates back to the 1979-80 season.
Perks And Recreation
Senior Nick Perkins was named the Most Valuable Player at the Belfast Classic and was named the MAC East Co-Player of the Week following back-to-back 20 point performances against Milwaukee and San Francisco. He earned MAC Player of the Week honors again following his 20-point, 11-rebound game over Southern Illinois and Perkins then had his second straight double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds at Syracuse. Following an 18-point performance at Canisius, Perkins moved into seventh place on UB's all-time scoring list, surpassing both Sam Pellom and Turner Battle on the list. Perkins scored 21 points in the win over Eastern Michigan and he currently has 1,504 points, just 10 points away from sixth place in school history.
Perkins, who was named to the midseason watch list for the Lou Henson Award, given to the nation's top mid major player, was named first-team All-MAC last season and he was named the MAC's Sixth Man of the Year for the second straight season.
The Harris Poll
Senior Jeremy Harris had a breakout year for the Bulls last season in his first season with the Blue and White. Harris was a second-team All-MAC selection as he averaged 15.5 points per game, including 17.4 points per contest in league games only. Over the 18-game MAC season, Harris led the league in three-point shooting at .463. Harris was one of just 11 players in the nation to shoot over 46% from three in conference games, while attempting over 100 three-pointers. He joins Pat Andree from Lehigh as the only two to do it, while also pulling in over 100 rebounds.
Harris began the season slowly from three-point range as he only hit multiple threes in a game once over the first four games, but he has hit multiple three pointers in a game in even of the last nine contests. He was 7-of-12 over the final two games of non-conference play, including a season-high 22 points at Marquette. Harris had a career night against Toledo with a new high 34 points in the win, going 6-of-10 from three-point range. Harris had 21 of his points in the first half, while also adding seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals. He added 17 points in the win over Miami (OH), earning MAC East Co-Player of the Week honors.
Monumental Wins Highlight Non-Conference Season
The Bulls opened their road schedule with one of the best wins in school history as they defeated West Virginia on Nov. 9 in the first road of the year, 99-94, in overtime. It was UB's first ever road win over a team in the top 25 as the Mountaineers entered the game ranked 13th. Over the last four years, Buffalo is the only non-Big 12 team to come into Morgantown and leave with a win over West Virginia while they have been ranked in the Top 25. Dating back to 2011-12, the only other unranked non-conference opponent to go into Morgantown and leave with a win while West Virginia was ranked was LSU as they came away with a 74-73 win on Dec. 4, 2014. Also dating back to 2011-12, no opponent has scored more points against West Virginia than the 99 scored by UB.
Buffalo added to their early season resume with their 71-59 win over Syracuse on Dec. 18. The 12-point win for the Bulls was the largest margin of victory against Syracuse by a non Power-5 team since Navy did so during the 1986 NCAA Tournament. For the Bulls, it was their first ever in the Carrier Dome, which wasn't built until 1980, and their first win over the Orange since 1963.
The Bulls also have an in-season tournament title to their credit as they won the Belfast Hall of Fame Classic with wins over Milwaukee and San Francisco. To date, Buffalo is the only loss for San Francisco as the Dons are 12-2 on the season, including a win over PAC-12 member, California.
One of the most improved players in the entire Mid-American Conference last season was junior point guard Davonta Jordan. After averaging under 3.0 points per game during his freshman season, Jordan averaged 6.5 points per game last year as a sophomore, while adding 144 assists, the most on the team. Through two years, Jordan is the only player in the Mid-American Conference to record 200 career assists over his freshman and sophomore seasons. He is currently UB's active career leader in assists with 274.
Jordan picked up his scoring last year, including his first career 20-point performance, which came in a win at Delaware. Defensively, Jordan was selected to the All-MAC Defensive Team as well. Jordan had 16 points in the win over Dartmouth on 8-of-12 shooting, while also adding four assists in the win. He recorded a season high seven assists against St. Bonaventure.
Jordan leads the Bulls with 16 charges drawn this season, taking four in the win over Southern Illinois. He also had 11 points in the game, all in the second half. Jordan added 10 points in the win over Syracuse, including knocking down a pair of second half three pointers. He stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebounds, and seven assists against Marquette.
UB's senior guard Dontay Caruthers is one of the top defenders in the Mid-American Conference as he was named the 2016-17 MAC Defensive Player of the Year, but last season, Caruthers played in just 25 games, missing 11 with a leg injury. When playing, Caruthers averaged 6.7 points per game, including a pair of 20-point performances.
Caruthers has given the Bulls a huge lift this season on both sides of the ball, capped off by his 20-point performance against Le Moyne where he was 7-of-8 from the floor and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Caruthers had his second 20-point game of the year at Marquette, going 7-of-11 from the field. Caruthers earned a spot on Sportscenter Top 10 plays following his postarizing dunk at Canisius right over Malik Johnson. He also had a game-high six assists in the win over the Golden Griffins.
Sophomore Jayvon Graves is averaging 9.6 points per game through the first 15 contests, which is fourth on the team. He scored 14 points in the win over West Virginia, including a few monster dunks right over the Big 12 caliber foes while tying his career high against Dartmouth with 16 points, making his first appearance on Sportscenter's Top 10 plays this season. He added 16 more points in the win over Marist, tying his career high with four three pointers. Graves recorded a new career high with 19 points in the win over St. Bonaventure, knocking down a new career best five three-pointers. He had 10 points on his birthday at Canisius. Graves had the first double-double of his career in the win over Toledo, as he finished with 13 points and career-high 12 rebounds, including nine of those on the defensive end.
The Real McRae
Senior Montell McRae is averaging 6.8 points per game, coming off a career high 18 points in the MAC opener against Eastern Michigan. McRae had a stretch in the first half where he scored 12 straight points, including back-to-back three pointers, which gave the Bulls the lead for good. McRae is actually 25-of-28 from inside the arc (89.3%). Defensively, McRae is third on the team in charges as he has drawn nine on the year, including two in the last game against Miami (OH).