Dave DeLuca/The Record
In his first appearance since the 2016-2017 season, SUNY Buffalo State Men’s Basketball guard Dom Grayer exploded for a career-high 39 points and sunk eight three-pointers, two shy of matching the program record.
But Grayer’s performance and a late push just simply wasn’t enough for the Bengals as their run for an upset fell short against the No. 20 John Carroll Blue Streaks, 99-94, Saturday night.
Down by three with 8 seconds left, the Bengals were unable to hoist a three as the Blue Streaks decided to foul and send Grayer to the line with 4 seconds left. Grayer missed the first and deliberately missed the second one hoping to get the rebound tapped out to behind the arc, but missed the rim.
“We allowed them to get comfortable in their offense,” admitted Grayer after the game. “They hit some tough contested shots, but we collectively have to do a better job of locking down on the defensive end.”
Buffalo State was able to jump out to a 14-7 lead in the first half, but John Carroll answered back with a 23-7 run of their own. Blue Streaks guard Connor Fitzgerald was doing everything he could as he poured 21 points in nine minutes in the first half after coming off the bench.
The Bengals did everything imaginable to stay in the game and went into the locker room after the first half trailing, 53-47. At the half, Grayer had 19 points, shooting 6-for-14 from the field and 5-for-7 from behind the arc.
“In shootaround this morning, my body felt good,” Grayer said. “Then we got on the layup line and I just felt really calm. My first shot went down and from there I knew I had the hot hand.”
Neither team seemed poised to pull away in the second half. It went back and forth through the entire final stanza and halfway through the second half, the Bengals trailed by only eight.
Late in the second half whenever Buffalo State was poised to make a run and take the lead, the Blue Streaks would answer immediately. But after Grayer and guard Delen Ramovic made back-to-back layups for Buffalo State, the score was all knotted at 80.
With 23 seconds left and trailing by three, Grayer had an open look from behind the arc, took it and was fouled as the ball nearly rattled in. Grayer made the first one, but missed the second one, leading to a dejected look on his face. He ended up making the third.
The Bengals fouled Blue Streaks guard Sean Flannery, but Flannery made both shots, leading to a three-point deficit for Buffalo State. Bengals forward Kay Grant was fouled underneath with 12 seconds left and made his two free throws, so the deficit was back to one.
The Bengals, forced to foul, sent Flannery back to the line and he sunk his two free throws, showing the ice water in his veins as he silenced the deafening crowd at the Sports Arena.
“I missed three free throws late in the ballgame. That’s the game right there, but I love the heart that I saw from my guys,” said Grayer. “I’ve been itching to play again, so it felt great to be back out there with the guys. This loss is on me though. I’ll make it up to them.”
Grayer and the Bengals will be back at it on Sunday at 2 p.m. as they host the Brooklyn Bulldogs in the final game of the Cole’s Classic.