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Big 4 players honored by NABC

Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason, Canisius' Billy Barron and UB's Javon McCrea were all named to the NABC Division I All-District teams which were announced today.

Green and Baron were named to the District 1 first team with Iona's Lamont Jones, Siena's O.D. Anosike and Stony Brook's Tommy Brenton. Mason was on the second team with Loyola's Erik Etherly, Boston University's D.J. Irving, Fairfield's Derek Needham and Stony Brook's Jameel Warney.

McCrea was on the District 14 first team along with Ohio's D.J. Cooper, Akron's Zeke Marshall, Toledo's Rian Pearson and Kent State's Chris Evans.

---Rodney McKissic

More reaction to Witherspoon firing

---Below are thoughts from Mark Bortz and Calvin Cage, two of Reggie Witherspoon's former players, on the news Friday that Witherspoon's 14-year era at UB had come to an end. Cage's comments are from his Facebook page while Bortz's are part of an email he sent to me at 3 a.m. Saturday morning:

Mark Bortz, Class of 2005:

I was in the middle of a store when I received the news and was in complete shock.  I wandered around the store for several minutes in a daze before I came to my senses and rushed to be with my family, my UB family.  I was in disbelief only hours after watching UB in a hard-fought battle against rival Kent St. in the MAC Tournament.

I could not believe that the man who brought UB out of the basement of the MAC had been fired.  The same man that made UB a championship contender on a yearly basis, took his teams to two MAC Championship games, groomed multiple MAC Player of the Year winners, won multiple Coach of the Year awards, took the school to its first ever post-season appearances and won a share of the MAC regular season title in a year they were picked to finish last!

How quickly we forget the past and take for granted what we have.  As I sat in silence, I thought about all of the experiences I had on the court with Coach Witherspoon, but equally about our times off the court, especially since I graduated in 2005.  I thought about the basketball family that Coach “Spoon” had created.  What the public doesn’t get to see is how much Coach really cared for his players beyond points, assists and rebounds.  He cares about making his players into men and believed in the importance of education.  Coach Witherspoon helped to mold me into the man I am today and I credit much of my success as a professional basketball player and in life to his mentorship. 

****

Calvin Cage, Class of 2006

11 years ago a 17 yr. old kid sat in Bladensburg High at press conference on national signing day. Several high major offers I sign to go to Buffalo, everyone is (upset)!! The Washington Post my coach, a few teammates, at the time I was turning pro at 19 regardless, I get on campus meet Reggie Witherspoon and he's KILLING me from day 1!!! Tells me that until I mature I won't play. We won only 5 games that yr., but I’m forever grateful to this man because this guy made me a MAN!! I'm not person, friend, son, father boyfriend that I am if it wasn't for Reg. Coming from DC I was homesick the 1st day I stepped on campus, his family excepted me like I was their own, the ENTIRE family!! I'm hurt to hear this news my brother (Turner Battle) is there coaching also like I know I’ll (probably) never be in Buffalo again, my ties to the university are done.

---Rodney McKissic

Postseason Hoops Honors

Catching up on some postseason honors that have been doled out while awaiting the start of the UB women's second-round MAC Tournament game against Miami here in Cleveland:

Ohio senior guard D.J. Cooper was named MAC Player of the Year today and Akron's Keith Dambrot was named Coach of the Year. I voted for both of them.

I was extremely high on UB's Javon McCrea but when the Bulls failed to finish .500 in conference I couldn't bring myself to cast the vote. And Cooper won me over with that go-ahead 3 he hit from Getzville in Ohio's 72-69 win at Alumni on March 5. Plus, Cooper will go down as one of the best guards in MAC history. It seemed kind of crazy he might leave never having won the award. So I'll admit it. Career achievement factored into my vote.

As for Dambrot, when you win the conference and put together a 19-game winning streak you don't leave much room for debate. Plus, I admired the way he responded to the Alex Abreu arrest that's probably going to cost the Zips an at-large if they don't win it all here.

The All-MAC first team consists of McCrea, Cooper, Akron center Zeke Marshall, Kent State forward Chris Evans and Toledo guard Rian Pearson. I believe that's exactly how I had it on my preseason ballot although ultimately Evans didn't make the preseason first-team.

UB's Jarryn Skeete was on the all-freshman team.

On the women's side, UB had two players receive honorable mention: freshman Mackenzie Loesing and sophomore Christa Baccas. Loesing also mad the all-freshman team.

* * * * *

In the MAAC, Coach of the Year Joe Mihalich is one of 20 finalists for the Skip Prosser Award given by collegeinsider.com. The award was initiated in 2008 and goes to a coach who achieves success on the court and demonstrates moral integrity off the court.
Western New York native and former ECC and Canisius coach John Beilein of Michigan also is a finalist.

Also from collegeinsider.com, Niagara's Juan'ya Green and Billy Baron of Canisius were tabbed as MAAC co-MVPs.

-- Bob DiCesare

Central Michigan-UB game analysis

Game analysis: UB usually finds a way to lose close games but on Monday in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament it found a way to win. Actually, it was more like an escape. Central Michigan rallied from a seven-point deficit to send the game into overtime and had a chance to win but Kyle Randall's 3-pointer bounced off the backboard and the Bulls won, 74-72, to advance to the tournament's second round against Ball State.

How UB won: Javon McCrea who earned first-team All-MAC honors earlier in the day controlled the paint while Will Regan kept some of the pressure off McCrea inside by hitting 3 of 6 3-pointers. Randall went nuts after halftime, but the Bulls came up with a huge defensive stop to win the game.

Turning Point: McCrea gave the Bulls a four-point advantage in overtime when he drove right and flushed in a left-handed dunk with 2:59 left in the game. Central Michigan pulled within a point on a Randall free throw but Watson made 1 of 2 free throws with 3.4 seconds left.

Player of the Game: Randall had three points at halftime but finished with a game-high 31.

Who is that guy?: Raphell Thomas-Edwards career at UB has been nondescript to say the least but he scored a career best 10 points in the first half, all off the bench. Coming into the game, he made a grand total of 10 field goals this season.

Key stat: Watson was 1 of 10 from downtown.

What It Means: UB advances to Cleveland for the 10th consecutive season.

In the House: 2,309 at Alumni Arena.

He said it: "Partly why we didn't want to play Buffalo was because of Javon McCrea. We don't have anybody that can defend him. We have undersized post guys in there as freshman so we were going to try to be as physical with him as possible and limit his touches he got. As special of a player as he is, he kept working and kept fighting." - Central Michigan coach Keno Davis.

Up next: vs. Ball State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Cleveland

---Rodney McKissic

Simmons granted sixth year

The NCAA has granted St. Bonaventure forward Marquise Simmons, a fifth-year senior from Washington, D.C., a sixth-year of eligibility according to a source.

The return of the 6-foot-8 Simmons will help ease the blow of losing Demitrius Conger, Michael Davenport, Chris Johnson, and Eric Mosley who are all seniors.

Simmons appeared in just one game last season after tearing his Achilles and made two free throws before leaving the contest. He's appeared in 27 games this season and is averaging 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds as a reserve.

On Saturday, Simmons played 12 minutes and scored two points with five rebounds before fouling out. A few fans in the student section chanted, "One more year'' as Simmons walked to the bench. Motion granted.

---Rodney McKissic

Charlotte-St. Bonaventure game anaylsis

Game analysis: Just like last year, when it captured its first Atlantic 10 Tournament championship, St. Bonaventure is playing its best basketball in March. The Bonnies led by as many as 29 points against Charlotte and after the 49ers made a few token runs in the second half, they managed to put them away, 104-83. It is the Bonnies first three-game win streak of the season.

How St. Bonaventure won: Early 3-point shooting helped Bona to an early 22-5 lead which expanded by 29 by halftime. The second half is when Charlotte stopped sleep-walking and cut into the lead with defense, but the Bonnies never allowed the lead to dip under 16.

Turning Point: The Bonnies led 6-5 with 14:48 left in the first when Demitrius Conger jumped started a run that saw the lead grow to 17 points in a matter of minutes.

Player of the Game: Eric Mosely led the Bonnies with 23 points.

Unsung player of the game: You know when baseball teams make a trade for a left-handed pitcher in the heat of a playoff chase? Well, Mark Schmidt is bringing in Dion Wright off the bench for a late-season push and the freshman responded against Charlotte with a career-high 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting. Wright's point total prior to Saturday was 17.

No sleep 'til Brooklyn. No, really: Conger stuffed the stat sheet again with 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists but lately he's played 444 out of a possible 450 minutes.

Key stat: The Bonnies had 22 assists and 22 turnovers.

What It Means: With two games remaining against Dayton and Fordham in the regular season the Bonnies are currently in a three-way tie for eighth place along with Richmond and Saint Joseph's and hold the ninth seed. Richmond lost at Dayton on Saturday while Saint Joseph's won at home against Fordham.

In the House: 3,760 at the Reilly Center.

He said it: "We talk about curbing and it's an (Irish Republican Army) term about knocking a guy down, open his mouth, step on his throat and knock his teeth out. That what you try to do when you have someone down and we didn't curb 'em. We gave them life." - St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt.

Up next: at Dayton at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

---Rodney McKissic

Chat replay: Niagara beats Saint Peter's for MAAC title

Canisius-Niagara Game Wrap

Niagara 66, Canisius 65

How Niagara Won: Marvin Jordan's three from the left corner with 2.9 seconds remaining stood as the winning points when Billy Baron's last-instant jumper was deemed to have come after time expired. Jordan's shot was set up by point guard Juan'ya Green, who raced up court, drove the lane and dished off as defenders converged.

Player of the Game: Jordan struck for a season-high 23 points on a night when leading scorers Antoine Mason and Green were limited by foul trouble. He played 34 minutes and went 9 of 18 from the floor with four rebounds and three steals.

Continue reading "Canisius-Niagara Game Wrap" »

Bona-Saint Louis Game Wrap

SAINT LOUIS 67, BONA 57

Game Analysis: The Billikens defend the perimeter better than any team I've seen this year and took Bona's sharpshooters right out of the game. The Bonnies adjusted in the second half and struck for 34 points, but that 38-23 halftime deficit was too much to overcome.

Player of the Game: Saint Louis received production from a variety of players. Dwayne Evans had a game-high 18 points. Cody Ellis had two of his four steals late to derail Bona's comeback effort. But I loved the defensive work of junior guard Mke McCall Jr., who made life miserable to the Bonnies behind the arc. He had nine points, four rebounds and three steals.

Continue reading "Bona-Saint Louis Game Wrap" »

UB-Niagara Game Wrap

UB 77, Niagara 67

How UB Won: Javon McCrea, coming off a career-high 31 points at Milwaukee Wednesday, was held without a field goal for the first time in his career. Not to worry. Will Regan went 11 over his career high, scoring 26, punishing the Purple Eagles from inside and out.

Turning Point: UB never trailed and Niagara never went away until Regan hit his third three of the night from the corner with 3:17 left. That put UB on top, 66-58.

Player of the Game: You've probably figured it out by now.

Best Supporting Role: Point guard Jarod Oldham continues to evolve into a scoring threat. He had a career-high 20 against St. Bonaventure on Dec. 1 and went for 18 against the Purple Eagles. He was 5 of 10 from the field, 8 of 13 from the line and overcame five turnovers with seven assists.

White Returns: Fifth-year senior transfer Devon White not only suited up for the first time this year, he was in Niagara's starting lineup. White, a 6-foot-8, 240-pounder from La Salle, had been out since suffering an Achilles tendon injury over the summer. He played 23 minutes and had four points, five rebounds and two blocks.

Missing: Niagara was without forward Joe Thomas and guard Marvin Jordan. Thomas returned home because of the death of his grandmother. Jordan missed his second straight game with a groin injury.

What It Means: UB is 4-7 and on its first winning streak of the season. Niagara is 3-6 and still looking for its first back-to-back wins.

Gamesmanship: Niagara coach Joe Mihalich "established a rapport" with the officials in the early going, prompting Reggie Witherspoon to comment to a passing referee, "If he's going to stand up and referee, I'm going to stand up and referee." The fouls were about even late in the half, but Mihalich apparently objected to sto a call with 38.7 seconds left, was hit with a technical, and UB turned the foul and the "T" into four points and a 37-28 halftime lead.

In the House: Attendance numbered 4,012.

They Said It:
"I didn't use any bad language. I didn't use the magic word. I didn't throw my coat in the stands. -- Mihalich on his "T".

"I actually felt good out there, especially coming off an injury like I had. I would love to get back out there again and keep helping my team. All in all, it's great to be out there back on the court supporting my team." -- White on coming back off his injury.

"it's important to have another person out there that can shoot that shot (the three). It opens the court and that's what we've been working on. I think that fits right into Will's strengths, running the court." -- Witherspoon on the Bulls offensive emergence.

"With us opening the floor, that really helps out a lot. You can't really throw three guys down on Javon. You can't have two or three guys sagging in there because Tony (Watson) is hitting shots and Will is hitting shots." -- Oldham

"Seriously, it's been a while since I've gotten meaningful minutes in a game." -- Regan, who played sparingly his freshman year at Virginia and sat out last year as a transfer.

Next Up: UB is off until it visits Washington State on Dec. 21. Niagara plays four of its next five at home beginning with Hartford on Wednesday night.

-- Bob DiCesare

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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | [email protected]


Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic

Rodney McKissic began his journalism career in 1989 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and has worked for The Buffalo News since 2001. A proud father of four children, he enjoys reading in his spare time.

@RodneyMcKissic | [email protected]


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | [email protected]

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