Second half spurt propels St. Bonaventure past UB
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • December 04, 2011 @ 1:50am
It’d be a disservice to lead with anything else other than the passing of Allen Wilson, the renowned Buffalo News sports writer who lost his battle to leukemia today. He was only 49-years-old. Before you read anything else that I write, read Jerry Sullivan’s tribute to Wilson’s life.
My personal experiences with Wilson were limited, but I saw him throughout my youth, covering sectional high school basketball playoffs each year at Buffalo State. As Sully mentioned, Wilson did have a quiet yet commanding presence. In late February of last year, I had the privilege of covering a Canisius basketball game alongside Wilson—I remember being impressed by his ability to ask short questions to the point, drawing attention away from himself. There was nothing arrogant about Allen Wilson—his humility was a character trait I admired.
On the hardwood, the University at Buffalo fell at home for the first time this season, a 66-60 loss to Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure. The Bulls had pushed their lead to five—their largest of the game—after a Zach Filzen three-pointer made the score 46-41 with 12:54 to go. After a five-and-a-half minute scoring drought, however, Buffalo found itself in a 10 point hole, and Reggie Witherspoon’s club could only claw back to within four before falling short.
St. Bonaventure’s center Andrew Nicholson, the Big 4’s first NBA prospect since the 1980s, scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half and finished a surgical 8 for 9 from the floor, 7 for 8 from the line. Taking antibiotics for a long bout with bronchitis, Nicholson pushed through illness in the first half before adrenaline took over down the stretch.
The Bonnies surprised the athletic UB front-line by asserting their physicality in the post—St. Bonaventure outscored the Bulls inside the paint 32-24, and the post trio of Nicholson, Da’Quan Cook and Youssou Ndoye refused to allow easy hoops to Javon McCrea or Mitchell Watt.
The Bonnies’ sophomore point guard Charlon Kloof, starting for the first time in his career, and sophomore two-guard Matthew Wright made several of those finishes easy on their big men by dribbling into the lane to draw defenders before dumping the ball off to an open teammate. Of Nicholson’s five second half buckets, either Wright or Kloof assisted on four of them.
The press conference following the game was a tale of awkwardness, arguably worse than when UB football’s Peter Fardon missed an extra point that resulted in a one-point Buffalo loss to Northern Illinois.
The Buffalo News’ Bob DiCesare directed a question to Javon McCrea, the Bulls’ highly-regarded sophomore forward who had 15 points and seven rebounds on the evening, asking him what his impressions were of his counterpart, the Bonnies’ senior Nicholson.
“I have no impressions. They won, we lost,” McCrea said in a surly tone. The room quickly went quiet—no one had any idea what to say—and then the press conference ended.
Before the enigmatic McCrea’s anger was released, Witherspoon expanded on UB’s problems. “Offensively we didn’t execute, and it became a very mechanical game for us, and we never got into a rhythm. I’m sure it wasn’t the prettiest game to watch.”
“We had some reluctance to shoot it from some guys, and that’s not a surprise to us,” he continued. “We had some guys in different roles that are going to have to trust things—be comfortable enough to trust themselves.”
Who was Witherspoon referring to? I’m not certain, but Dave Barnett is definitely a culprit. The Bulls’ coach has been harping on his senior small forward to trust his shot and become more of a threat in the offense, and Barnett was 0-3 from the floor tonight despite playing 31 minutes. The East Aurora graduate is the team’s top hustle player and arguably its best defender, but according to Witherspoon, Barnett has the shooting ability to be a difference-maker. We haven’t seen it.
To make matters worse—particularly during the second half when St. Bonaventure pulled away—the Bulls’ shot selection turned sour. During the 15-0 Bona run, Buffalo missed eight straight shots—two each from the much-maligned Tony Watson II and seldom-used forward Auraum Nuiriankh. Were they open shots? Maybe. Were they the best shots the Bulls could have gotten on those possessions? No.
“I saw some people early and late take some shots that I’d never seen them take. I’m sure you guys saw it too,” Witherspoon said in the presser.
Witherspoon chimed in after McCrea’s terse response to DiCesare, saying to the media: “You guys look half asleep. This feels like a classroom.” Sorry coach, but that line summed up the Bulls’ second half performance.