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UB-WMU Game Wrap

UB 84, Western Michigan 63

Why UB Won: If the Bulls have a better offensive game in them, look out. Just about everything clicked, as evidenced by 24 assists on 33 baskets, five players in double figures in scoring and four in double figures in shot attempts. And they didn't settle, scoring 52 points in the paint. Offensively speaking, it was a January masterpiece.

Turning Point: After watching his starters fire away at will early and miss some easy shots Bobby Hurley temporarily benched every one of them. They returned with a renewed focus and pounded it inside to Javon McCrea, who scored 10 of the game's next 12 points.

Player of the Game: The timeliness of his outburst gives McCrea (20 points, six boards) the slightest edge over freshman guard Shannon Evans (17 points, seven assists). But if you want to argue for Evans, I fully understand.

Stat Check: The Bulls made 1 of their first 9 shots and 32 of their next 55, finishing the game at 51.6 percent.

Stat Check II: Point guards Evans and Jarod Oldham combined for 15 assists against just three turnovers.

Stat Check III: Oldham was the primary guard on David Brown and held the MAC scoring leader to 11 points, more than 7 under his average.

Stat Check IV: This was WMU's most lopsided loss since Jan. 9 of last season.

Mending: Guard Jarryn Skeete missed his second straight game (knee).

What It Means: Teams ideally want to finish in the top 2 and bye into the tournament semifinals. Nos. 3 and 4 bye into the quarterfinals. Everyone else has the to win four times to take the title and the NCAA berth (and good luck with that). At 5-2 the Bulls are tied for third with Ohio, a game behind Akron and Toledo.

In the House: Nice student turnout on a frigid night pushed the crowd to 3,052. There's much room for improvement.

What's Next: UB heads to Bowling Green Sunday for a pre-Super Bowl matchup with the Falcons (9-11, 3-4).

Bob DiCesare

Griffs Crack MM Top 25

By Bob DiCesare

It's no surprise Canisius has finally cracked the collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The surprise is that they debut at No. 22, 12 spots behind Manhattan despite leading the Jaspers in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings and sitting three spots higher in the RPIs.

But the Griffs are satisfied that at least they're attracting some notice after winning 8 of their last 11 and maintaining a share of the conference lead with 8 games left on the MAAC schedule.

Wichita State tops the charts, of course, and owns all 31 first-place votes. Among the Big 4 conferences, Toledo is No. 3, Manhattan No. 10, Ohio No. 14 and Akron No. 16. The MAAC has two coaches on the poll, Jimmy Patsos of Siena and Tom Moore of conference  newcomer Quinnipiac. The Mid-American Conference also has a pair: Tod Kowalczyk of Toledo and Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan.

It's been a good week for the Griffs on the publicity front. Billy Baron was named the Lute Olson national mid-major player of the week after totaling 70 points in wins over Niagara and Marist.

The collegeinsider.com poll:

 

RECORD POINTS PREVIOUS  
1. Wichita State (31) 21-0 775 1 Missouri Valley
2. Gonzaga 18-3 740 3 West Coast
3. Toledo 17-2 694 4 Mid-American
4. Green Bay 17-3 641 5 Horizon
5. Harvard 15-3 631 2 Ivy League
6. Indiana State 16-4 630 6 Missouri Valley
7. Stephen F. Austin 18-2 566 7 Southland
8. North Dakota State 15-5 523 10 Summit
9. Princeton 12-3 493 9 Ivy League
10. Manhattan 14-5 489 8 Metro Atlantic
11. Saint Mary's 16-5 466 11 West Coast
12. Mercer 17-5 439 12 Atlantic Sun
13. Northern Colorado 13-4 353 15 Big Sky
14. Ohio 14-5 344 13 Mid-American
15. New Mexico State 15-7 314 16 WAC
16. Akron 13-6 306 17 Mid-American
17. Belmont 16-7 232 23 Ohio Valley
18. UC Irvine 13-8 224 14 Big West
19. UC Santa Barbara 12-6 165 18 Big West
20. Georgia State 14-6 156 25 Sun Belt
21. IPFW 16-6 153 24 Summit
22. Canisius 14-7 71 NR Metro Atlantic
23. Delaware 14-7 67 NR Colonial
24. North Carolina Central 13-5 66 NR MEAC
25. Chattanooga 14-8 61 NR Southern


Notice that Chattanooga also slipped in at No. 25. Former UB player and assistant coach Turner Battle is an assistant with the Mocs.

 

 

Quinn to ND Intriguing but . . .

By Bob DiCesare

UB coach Jeff Quinn is working awfully hard on retooling his coaching staff for someone rumored as a candidate to reunite with Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.

The Bulls have hired esteemed strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to replace Zach Duval, who left for the same job at Wyoming. Morris, UB's S&C coach in 2006 before leaving for Pitt, starts on Jan. 27. He worked for the Panthers through 2010, returned to Buffalo, and told me tonight he has been aching to get back in football ever since.

Sources say two other departures from Quinn's staff likely will be absorbed from within. Notably, the intent is to have offensive coordinator/receivers coach Alex Wood drops receivers for quarterbacks after Don Patterson departed to become associate head coach/QB coach at UConn. Most recently, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver departed, reportedly for Virginia.

Would Quinn be actively reorganizing and hiring if he was looking to reunite with Kelly and become offensive coordinator at Notre Dame? Perhaps. Nothing's outside the realm of possibility in college coaching, and neither Quinn nor AD Danny White responded to messages left concerning the Notre Dame talk. A source close to Notre Dame football said it's not happening.

But there is an intriguing angle to the Notre Dame thing in that Quinn's at a crossroads as a head coach. To maintain a glow he has to sustain success comparable the eight-win season of 2013, and he has to do it with heavy graduation losses that include five first-team All-MAC players. Were the program to backtrack over the next couple of years his star dulls. J.D. Brookhart won the East and the MAC at Akron in 2005 and was fired after the 2009 season for failing to sustain. Coaching' can be a cruel world.

Now let's say Quinn became OC at Notre Dame -- he had the job for a week before being hired by UB -- and produced. His body of work at UB showing continual improvement would make him an OC with a successful head coaching stint, giving him a leg up on much of the competition if he pursued another head coaching vacancy at a higher level.

Just something to consider even though the winds appear to be blowing in the other direction.

Meanwhile, I'll be filing another blog on Morris's return to the Bulls in a short while.

 

UB-NIU Game Wrap

UB 67, Northern Illinois 46

How UB Won: By recruiting better players. This shouldn't have been much of a game and it wasn't. But the Huskies are tougher at home and the Bulls pay DeKalb a visit on Jan. 25.

Turning Point: No one figured a secondary turning point would be forthcoming once UB jumped out to a 16-0 lead through six minutes. But who would have figured that Northern Illinois, a team that's won all of 16 games since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, would draw within four by halftime? When the Huskies did just that the onus was on UB to reestablish command. The Bulls answered with a 16-7 burst to start the second half. Josh Freelove and Javon McCrea keyed it.

Player of the Game: Consider it a positive for the Bulls that there are too many to chose from. Will Regan scored the night's first six points and finished with a game-high 15. Freelove made two big threes early in the second half to settle down the offense. McCrea attempted just five field goals but scored 14 points and set a career high with eight blocks. They all played integral roles.

What It Means: Mark Bobby Hurley down as a winner in his first conference game as a head coach. The Bulls are in a four-way tie for first in the East, improved to 7-4 overall and have won three straight.

Stat Check: Shannon Evans went on a tear during the game-opening run and totaled 11 points. He also had seven of UB's 16 turnovers in 23 minutes. The freshman will come to appreciate that it's not a negative  reflection on his ability to make the simple play. And that there's much better guard play in the MAC than what NIU brings to the floor.

Stat Check II: NIU hammered UB for 17 offensive rebounds and managed 14 more field goal attempts. UB has to clean that up. Like by Saturday.

Tech-nicalities: McCrea and Hurley both were hit with T's late in the first half. McCrea was booked for a dead-ball push. It was legit. Officials are cracking down on that kind of gamesmanship, subtle as it was.  Hurley was nailed for vehement argument after both coaches were previously warned to zip it. Yes, Hurley had a real beef or two. Evans it appeared was fouled launching a three but instead shot one-and-one because the foul was curiously deemed after the play. But Hurley will catch on that, for a MAC game, the crew did a pretty solid job. 

In the House: With students on break and tipoff pushed back to 9 p.m., a crowd of 1,520 on a Wednesday night isn't all that bad, relatively speaking. NIU left home Tuesday, over-nighted in Cleveland and then came into Buffalo. They asked to have the game moved to Thursday. UB resisted. So the game was moved to 9 p.m. for the Huskies even though they had a 6:45 a.m. flight home.

Next Up: Eastern Michigan (9-5) took its trademark zone to Bowling Green Wednesday night and knocked off the Falcons, 56-51. BG shot just 30 percent from the field and 18 percent from three. The Eagles visit Alumni at 2 Saturday and they're anything but an easy out. Four of their five losses are to ranked teams. The other was to Purdue. And EMU has size.

-- Bob DiCesare

UB-NIU Hoops Moved to 9 p.m.

By Bob DiCesare

Tonight's Mid-American Conference opener between UB and Northern Illinois at Alumni Arena has been moved back two hours to 9 p.m. The change was made by the conference in part as a concession to the Huskies, who left via bus yesterday from their campus west of Chicago, spent Tuesday night in the Cleveland area and were to arrive here today.

 

What Next for UB?

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Well, now, that was disturbing. Not because UB lost a bowl game by a lopsided margin. But because there's been a lopsidedness to every game the Bulls have played this year against an opponent with teeth.

Yeah, they almost made a game of it at Ohio State but they didn't. They were embarrassed at Baylor. They took a seven-game winning streak against dregs to Toledo and trailed 31-0 at the half. They held a 7-3 halftime lead over Bowling Green in the MAC championship game and lost the second half, 21-0. And then came the debacle that was the 49-24 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl loss to San Diego State on Saturday night. Down 35-10 minutes into the third. Good night.

Doubtless the athletic administration will console itself with "Aw, shucks. At least we made it to a bowl game. We're on our way?!!"

Is that so? Exactly where do you think this is headed?"

Jeff Quinn has been here four years. He's won two games against FBS teams with winning records and both were against Ohio. Now if they were over Ohio State and he was coaching Michigan by all means give the guy a lifetime contract. But we're talking Ohio. Just plain Ohio.

And then no one else.

UB won seven games this year against pushovers. Even UConn was in the midst of impending upheaval. Which begs the question: If this is the best Quinn could do with Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz, if this is the best he could do with five first-team all-MAC players (four post Jasen Carlson injury), then what rationale leads one to believe that it gets better from here?

This season looks pretty with spin. Eight wins. First bowl since the 2008 season. Ain't it great the AD locked up the coach with a contract extension last season?

But it's all spin. It took Quinn two years to win as many games as Turner Gill won his last season here. That's a digression. UB's eight-win season of 2013 matches its eight-win season of 2008 -- minus the MAC championship. The teams UB beat this year combined to win 23 games total, and that's with giving them the five victories of FCS Stony Brook. The '08 club beat teams with 42 wins, not an FCS among them, and knocked off No. 12 in the country in the MAC title game.

And this is supposed to somehow compare?

Danny White has fired six coaches since becoming athletic director. He let go a basketball coach who scored some pretty impression victories over the years because he couldn't get over the hump ad make it to the NCAAs. That and because, the coach being local and all, he wasn't sexy enough to market.

Don't construe this as criticism of Bobby Hurley. It's not. It is a criticism of the decision to release Reggie Witherspoon in the first place, especially given the talent he had in the fold.

If Witherspoon was shown the door with talent set to return how do the scales tip for Quinn with the bulk of his (heavily Gill-recruited) talent walking out the door? Is eight wins cause for celebration given the resumes of the victims?

Every time the Bulls played a worthy opponent they faltered. Badly. Got their horns blown off.

Maybe the AD should take stock of the whole situation instead perceiving success after a football season that, when you get right down to it, wasn't all that darn successful.

Because UB's claim to fame right now is that it's not as bad as it used to be. Whatever that's worth.

Potato Skins

By Bob DiCesare

BOISE, Idaho -- Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata joined head coach Jeff Quinn and senior cornerback Najja Johnson for Friday's pre-game press conference and fired off a few quality lines.

Licata when asked why he chose football over basketball despite making more than 300 threes in high school: "I could shoot it, couldn't play much defense though. So I stuck with quarterback because I didn't have to play defense."

Licata on Khalil Mack: "He's pretty special. If you watched any of our games this year yu see the terror in the quarterback's eyes. I have to line up against him every day in practice and I don't like doing that. Luckily I don't have to play against him on Saturday when I don't have my red jersey on."

X X X

Johnson was asked about defending SDSU's balanced receiving corps. Wideouts Colin Lockett and Ezell Ruffin have combined for 112 catches, more than 1,700 yards and eight TDs.

"They do have talented receivers who are fast and physical but we feel like we're faster and even more physical than them," Johnson said. "We look forward to letting those matchups play out tomorrow."

X X X

San Diego State left tackle Bryce Quigley, a 6-5, 300-pound senior, on going up against Mack:

"He's a great player. I've watched him on film. He's athletic, fast, strong. He switches sides and I'll see him probably about half the time I would say."

X X X

UB won't come close to sell off its 2,000-ticket allotment for the game but athletic director Danny White isn't fretting it. He noted that during its final two hours the Potato Bowl will be the only televised football game in America, providing UB with a opportunity for widespread exposure.

X X X

Bronco Stadium and its ancillary facilities are the envy of the Mountain West Conference. Count San Diego State coach Rocky Long among the admirers.

"I see a program that started way back when as a junior college and -- I've done some research -- made calculated steps, step after step, moving up from junior college to NAIA to eventually I-AA and to Division I," Long said. "And they had built all the necessary resources to be successful at Division I as they went. And obviously they built on that. And going to those kind of BCS bowls allows you the financial resources to do some special things.

"If you look at all the facilities and those sort of things within our league . . . there's no comparison to this place and the other teams in our league. Absolutely no comparison. So the resources that they have give them huge advantages."

X X X

Quinn on UB's win over UConn earlier this year:

"That was a program-building win for us. We'd been at them for a number of years and that was a great win for us, a significant win. We certainly have established ourself in this particular season with this group of kids."

##

Potato Bowl -- Inside the Aztecs

Stefanie Loh covers San Diego State football for U-T San Diego. She agreed to field five questions concerning the Aztecs leading into Saturday's game against UB in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Here are her responses. You can get the story from the other side of the field this week by following Stefanie on Twitter @StefanieLoh.

1. The Aztecs rank last nationally in red zone defense and among the bottom 10 in turnover ratio. That hardly seems like a recipe for success. Yet they're 7-5 and have won seven of their last nine. How have they managed it?

SL: With late-game miracles. Somehow, this defense always seems to come up with the big plays when they need them most. It's logic-defying. Also, while they haven't stopped many teams IN the red zone, what they have managed to do in is force three-and-outs in critical situations, before the opponent can get to the red zone. The turnovers have hurt them this year, but the Aztecs have definitely shown that they can be tough to beat late in a close game.
 
2. The Famous Iaho Potato Bowl can't throw anything at Buffalo weather-wise that the Bulls haven't seen before. I'm guessing the same can't be said for SDSU. Do you envision the weather being a factor here?
 
SL: I think it's hard to say because the Aztecs haven't played in the cold very much this year. They did, however, prevail in the Air Force game, when it was about 50 degrees at kickoff, but dipped at least 10 degrees throughout the course of the game. Extreme cold might be rough though, especially if there's snow. The Aztecs haven't played in snow this season, so that might pose problems, especially on offense.
 
3. Running back Adam Muema's the primary back but freshman RB Donnel Pumphrey intrigues with his numbers -- a 6.1 average, 8 TDs. Has he been a surprise this year or did they come into the season expecting he could play a fairly significant role?
 
SL: Pumphrey has definitely been a surprise. They saw flashes of his ability in camp, but held back on naming a true No. 2 back until about three games into the season. However, with Adam Muema struggling with an ankle injury through the first quarter of the year, Pumphrey really came up big for the Aztecs when they needed him. Without him, they might have lost against New Mexico State and Air Force. 
 
4. The Aztecs go 6-2 in conference yet just one player ended up first-team all-MW. Is it a matter of the sum being greater than the parts? And what's the lowdown on safety Nat Berhe, their first-team selection?
 
SL: Absolutely. I think the best thing about this team this year has been the fact that they work very well as a unit. On offense, Kaehler has proved very efficient at distributing the ball among a number of different receivers. On defense, the linebacking corps as a whole has been solid, especially when you consider that their star middle linebacker, Jake Fely, suffered a season-ending injury against New Mexico State. Then, about three quarters of the way in, SDSU lost nose tackle Sam Meredith to a torn labrum. The loss of two of their three defensive starters up the middle made Aztec safety Nat Berhe even more important. Berhe is a versatile, athletic defender who plays the hybrid linebacker/safety position that's unique to Rocky Long's defense. He can help in run support, blitz, or drop back to cover receivers, and he's had to really hold his own and help direct the defense this year. 
 
5. Quarterback Quinn Kaehler has had his two roughest days of the season percentage-wise over the last three games. Is there anything to account for this slide? And is this basically a move-the-chains approach to the passing game?''
 
SL: The offensive line hasn't played very well in the last three games, and this has really hurt the Aztecs' rushing offense. They run a balanced offense but really rely on the run to open up the play action pass. That has limited Kaehler's effectiveness in the pass game. To answer the second question, yes, this is indeed a move-the-chains sort of pass game. The Aztecs use a lot of short and intermediate passes, and generally don't go for too many long bombs because Kaehler isn't the most strong-armed quarterback you'll ever meet.
 
-- Bob DiCesare

Canisius-UB Game Wrap

Canisius 69, UB 55

How Canisius Won: UB captured the first 28 minutes, 49-40. Canisius captured the last 12, 29-6, by pulverizing the Bulls in every facet of the game. UB made 3 of its last 17 shots trying to attack the Griffs zone from the perimeter. At the other end, Canisius went to the basket with a vengeance and made 55.6 percent of its second-half field goals. It was like watching Popeye after he downs his spinach.

Player of the Game: Billy Baron was his usual self, scoring a game-high 23 points. And because that's so typical of Baron the honor is free to go elsewhere, in this case to co-players of the game guard Chris Perez and forward Phil Valenti. It wasn't just that the two combined for 27 points and nine boards. It's that no one on UB could match their energy level. They were all over the court.

Leap Backward: UB has lost to both Canisius and Niagara in the same season for the first since since 2000-01. That was Reggie Witherspoon's first full year as coach and the program was in its MAC infancy.

Live By It, Die By It: UB pulled out Saturday's game against St. Bonaventure by nailing four straight threes late. This time they went just 2 of 16 from downtown in the second half while trying to solve the Canisius zone. UB is now shooting less than 30 percent from beyond the arc this season. And a long season it will be if that doesn't change because . . .

What Ever Happened To: Javon McCrea. One of the best players ever to wear a UB uniform has totaled three second-half field goal attempts over the last two games. Three. UB had better find ways to utilize him away from the basket or free up passing lanes underneath before his senior year goes to waste.

Noteworthy: Chris Manhertz's game-high nine rebounds were a season high. Four of them were on the offensive glass.

Convincingly: The Griffs have spanked opponents by 14 points or more during their three-game winning streak.

Stat Check: Canisius outscored UB 32-24 in the paint andattempted 25 free throws compared to just eight for UB. How times have changed.

What It Means:Canisius improved to 6-3 while UB fell to 4-3.

In the House: The paid attendance at First Niagara was 4,703. Or about what they'd get for a Little Three jv game back in the old days.

What's Next: Canisius heads to the big city Saturday to face St. Francis Brooklyn. UB is off until it hits the Barclays Center on Dec. 21 for a meeting with Manhattan, the preseason favorite in the MAAC.

-- Bob DiCesare

Bowl MAC-inations

By Bob DiCesare

Good morning class. Today we'll run through a simple exercise to determine which of two teams in a certain conference is more deserving of a bowl bid. I will put forth the facts and you will make your decision based on the information provided. Don't fret it. This isn't all that hard.

                                                                 Team A                 Team B

Overall Record                                               7-5                        7-5

Conference Record                                         5-3                        4-4

Combined Records of Non-Common Foes            56-30                     33-52

Record of Divisional Crossover Opponents          23-14                      8-16

Record Last 4 Games                                       2-2                        1-3

Points For/Against Last 4                                152/123                  67/146

Continue reading "Bowl MAC-inations" »

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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 | bdicesare@buffnews.com


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 | rmckissic@buffnews.com


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 | amoritz@buffnews.com

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