Buffalo (4-2, 0-0 MAC) at #10 Creighton (6-0, 0-0 Big East)
November 29, 2016
CenturyLink Arena Omaha - 8:30 pm EST (Tipoff at 8:45)
Radio - Radio in Buffalo - 1520-AM WWKB
Television - Fox Sports 1
The Opening Tip...
• The Bulls will play their second nationally-ranked Top 10 opponent of the season on Tuesday night when UB faces Creighton, who is undefeated and 10th in the latest AP National Poll. Buffalo has already faced #7 Xavier and UB is currently the only team in the MAC to play two Top 10 national opponents this year. This will be the second ever meeting between these two schools and the first since 1922.
• Buffalo is coming off a third place finish at the Great Alaska Shootout with wins over the host Alaska-Anchorage and defending Big Sky Champion, Weber State. Senior Blake Hamilton and sophomore Nick Perkins were both named to the all-tournament team. Hamilton led all players in scoring at the tournament.
• The Bulls are in the process of completing a trip that has taken them over 8,400 miles with most of those occurring on the week-long trip to Alaska. When all is said and done, this road trip will last 11 days, the longest since UB has joined the MAC. After returning to Western New York, UB will still have two more games left in its six-game road trip with games at St. Bonaventure (12/3) and Pittsburgh (12/7). UB will then wrap up non-conference with three of the last four in Buffalo.
• Creighton is a perfect 6-0 on the season after defeating Loyola (MD) 82-52 on Saturday afternoon. They are currently ranked 10th in the AP Poll. The Blue Jays are amongst the NCAA leaders, averaging 91.8 points per game. They scored 112 points earlier this season in a win over NC State and 103 against Washington State en route to winning the Paradise Jam. Creighton defeated then #9 Wisconsin earlier this year 79-67 in Omaha.
• The Blue Jays are led by Marcus Foster, who is averaging 17.7 points per game and Khyri Thomas, who is averaging 13.8 points per contest. In all, four Creighton players are averaging over 11.0 points per game, including Justin Patton who also leads the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Maurice Watson Jr. is averaging 11.2 points and has a team-high 51 assists.
• Creighton made it to the quarterfinal round of the NIT last season following a 20-15 year losing at BYU. Watson Jr. led the Blue Jays last year at 14.1 points per game, while racking up 229 assists. For three straight years (2011-14), Creighton made it into the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
• Greg McDermott is in his seventh season as head coach at Creighton. He is 147-72 with the Bluejays. McDermott has previously been a head coach at Iowa State (2006-10), Northern Iowa (2001-06), North Dakota State (2000-01) and Wayne State (1994-2000). He owns a career mark of 427-267 in his 23rd season and is 295-203 in his 16th Division I campaign. He coached his son Doug McDermott while at Creighton. Doug is currently in his third season in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls.
Bulls Face Nationally-Ranked Creighton
Buffalo will face its second straight nationally-ranked opponent on Tuesday night when the Bulls play Creighton at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Creighton is currently 10th nationally in the most recent Top 25 national poll. The Blue Jays are one of the most prolific offensive teams in the country as they rank eighth in scoring, first in three-point field goal percentage and second in overall shooting percentage. They are the only team in the nation to shoot over 50% in every game this year.
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. Sophomore Nick Perkins was also named to the All-Tournament team following his first career double-double in the win over Weber State.
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, 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 made the long trek to the Great White North when Buffalo played in Anchorage, Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout. UB is now making 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.
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.
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 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 and also started in the Great Alaska Shootout opener against Alaska-Anchorage. He recorded a career-best seven points against Nevada, including his first career three-pointer.
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.
Smart had his best game of the year against Nevada, finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds. Smart added eight points and nine rebounds in the win over Weber State and he now has eight or more points in three of the last four games.
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 the 2,709 points scored by Buffalo last season were the most scored in the 99-year history of the program.