Buffalo (4-4, 0-0 MAC) at Pittsburgh (6-2, 0-0 ACC)
December 7, 2016
Peterson Events Center - 7:00 pm
Radio - Radio in Buffalo - 1520-AM WWKB
Television - ACC Network Extra
Online - ESPN3
The Opening Tip...
• Buffalo wraps up its season-long six-game road trip on Wednesday night at ACC foe, Pittsburgh. The game can be seen on ACC Network Extra and the Watch ESPN App. The Bulls are looking to snap a two-game losing streak, the first time this season that Buffalo has dropped two in a row. Pittsburgh leads the all-time series between these two squads 8-1 as UB's lone win came back in 1916-17, a 34-29 victory. These two teams last met during the 2007-08 season.
• According to the latest Kempom.com rankings, the Bulls have played the seventh toughest non-conference schedule in the nation in games played through Dec. 5. Of the top seven teams, Buffalo is the only team that has a record of .500 or better on the year.
• Fifth-year senior Raheem Johnson is averaging 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over the last two contests after he set a career high with 14 points in UB's nationally-televised game over Creighton. Over the last five games he is averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. He has been efficient from the field, shooting 19-of-24 (79.2%) during the road trip.
• Pittsburgh is 6-2 on the season, but is coming off a 64-55 loss against cross-town rival Duquesne. Prior to the loss, the Panthers had won four straight games, including a 73-59 victory at Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Buffalo will be the second MAC team that Pitt plays this season as the Panthers defeated Eastern Michigan 93-90 in double overtime in the season opener.
• The Panthers are led by Michael Young who is averaging 23.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Jamel Artis, who missed the previous game, is second on the team in scoring at 19.7 points per contest and he leads Pittsburgh with 26 assists. Cameron Johnson is the third Pitt player averaging in double figures as he has 11.5 points per game.
• Pittsburgh went 21-12 last season, falling to Wisconsin in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers were led by their top two scorers this season a year ago as Young averaged 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game and Artis averaged 14.4 points per contest.
• Kevin Stallings is in his first season as head coach at Pittsburgh after a successful run at Vanderbilt over the previous 17 years. Stallings enters his 24th season as a head coach with an impressive 455-283 (.617) record overall. Stallings, a two-time SEC Coach of the Year, took the Commodore basketball program to unparalleled heights in his 17 years at the helm. His teams advanced to seven NCAA Tournaments. Stallings coached six seasons at Illinois State (1994-99) in his first head coaching opportunity.
Six-Game Road Trip Set To Conclude In Steel City
The Bulls will wrap up their six-game road trip on Wednesday evening when they travel to ACC foe Pittsburgh. UB has been on the road for three straight weeks and they are currently 2-3 through the first five games of the trip. The Bulls will be looking for their first win over an ACC opponent since defeating Miami (FL) on Nov. 18, 2006 in the America's Youth Classic at Evansville.
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, stretch that concludes Wednesday evening. 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 concludes 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
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 has now scored over 20 points in three straight games and four out of five games on the current 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 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. 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.
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.
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. His 47 total assists are currently the fourth most amongst freshmen nationally.
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 is currently 19-of-14 (79.2%) from the field during the five games of the road trip.
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.
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, who has missed all of the season with mononucleosis, is questionable for Wednesday night's game.
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.