by Paul Peck, Buffalo Sports Page
It’s the first ranked Big Four team in over 40 years heading to play in one of the most difficult venues in the country. Add in the local rivalry, a suddenly hot team and you have a slam-dunk for the biggest WNY college basketball game of the season.
Saturday afternoon, the 17th ranked UB Bulls will play St. Bonaventure at the Reilly Center.
The Bulls are 8-0, tied for the best start in school history since 1930. They are the highest ranked Big Four team since 1971. But they have not won at St. Bonaventure since the 1915-16 season. Folks at Bona would say UB has never won there, because that 15-16 team was a club team and not a legit college squad.
Bulls Are Hot
The 8-0 start is the best by a local team since 1970. UB is coming off an 89-55 win over DII LeMoyne. The game was tied at 37 at the half, before the Bulls outscored the Dolphins 52-18 in the final 20 minutes. C.J. Massinburg had the second triple-double in school history with 13 points, 13 rebounds & 10 assists.
This starts a crucial stretch for the Bulls. After the Bona game, they host Southern Illinois on the 15th. Then it’s road games at Syracuse and Marquette. UB Head Coach Nate Oats knows this stretch will determine if, and how high the Bulls stay ranked and if they position themselves for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
Bonnies Getting Hot
Bona started the season 1-5, playing without forward Courtney Stockard. He’s back, and they’ve won three in a row. Wednesday, the Bonnies blew out Siena 82-40.
The fans at the Reilly Center will be ready for this one, as they usually are for ranked opponents. They have won three in a row against ranked teams at home. All of those wins were against Atlantic 10 conference rivals. The last non-conference ranked team to play at Bona was Syracuse in 1986.
St. Bonaventure has won four in a row against the Bulls, and nine of ten. Last year, they handed UB it’s only home loss.
Stockard is averaging 17 points per game since his return.
How the Bulls Will Win
By doing what they’ve been doing all season long: agressive, fast-paced offense…good three-point defense…forcing turnovers that lead to fast breaks…getting the ball inside to Nick Perkins…having Massinburg do everything well…and not being intimidated by the Reilly Center crowd.
How the Bonnies Will Win
They have to frustrate the Bulls and get them off their game…teams this season have shot the ball well from three-point distance, that’s a must…not turn the ball over, which leads to UB’s fast break points…frustrate shooter Jeremy Harris, who’s hot streaks leads to runs…get the crowd so fired up and loud that it distracts the Bulls.