Men’s Basketball struggle in opener, fall to Nazareth 78-69

Emmanuel Rodriguez, Sports Editor

The SUNY Buffalo State Men’s Basketball team tipped off the new year on Saturday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena against the Nazareth Golden Flyers. Both teams struggled in the affair, but the Bengals fell to the defending Empire 8 runner-up, 78-69.

Buffalo State comes into this season without their leading scorer from last year in guard Dom Grayer, but returns junior guards Sheldon Adams and Jordan Christopher and senior forward Kay Grant. Adams, Christopher and Grant could potentially be the top three scorers for Buffalo State this season.

The Bengals used a quick 7-2 run, fueled by an early three-pointer from Adams, to take the lead in the first two and a half minutes of the game, which forced Nazareth to call a timeout. However, this five-point lead was the largest lead the Bengals had all night.

Nazareth navigated quickly to tie things up in the first half, but the rust was still very evident for both teams as neither squad was able to take a commanding lead.

However, the Golden Flyers went on a 14-5 run in the final 5:08 of the first half to elevate them to a 44-32 lead after the first 20 minutes.

In the first half, Nazareth was able to contain Adams, Christopher and Grant. The trio combined to score 17 of Buffalo State’s 32 first half points, however, 11 of the 17 points were Grant’s doing.

“(Grant) came in better condition this year,” said Bengals head coach Fajri Ansari, who enters season number 14. “At the beginning of the game, the guys who were starting didn’t even look at him. I thought this would be the game he would be able to score.”

The second half started the same way the first half did, with the Bengals making the first basket, but after a three by the lone returning senior Cody Green, Nazareth held the largest lead of the game at 14.

The Bengals did everything they could do claw their way back into this game, including cutting the deficit down to as little as seven in multiple spurts. It seemed as though every time the Bengals were inching closer to make the comeback, the Golden Flyers had an answer.

After only posting 11 points and two rebounds in the first half, Grant was able to bounce back for a respectable 20 point, nine rebound game on 7-for-13 shooting from the field.

“I felt like we could’ve done better tonight,” said Grant after being asked about his individual performance. “We fell at rebounding, they had 18 offensive rebounds. If we had rebounded and contained them, I think we could’ve beat them today. They just wanted it more than us.”

Grant went 6-for-8 from the free throw line along with five offensive boards.

Christopher was a non-factor in the season opener. He found himself in the locker room after the first half with three personal fouls in seven minutes. He ended up fouling out after 10 minutes, picking up just three rebounds.

“Man, I just can’t think about it that much. Just, onto the next game,” said Christopher.

Christopher did not take a shot or register an assist in the loss and ended up with a plus/minus of -2.

“He has to keep his head up, too,” said Grant. “I think the calls made on (Christopher) were bad. I felt like he was just being aggressive tonight, but the refs felt like he was over-aggressive and we can’t do anything about that.”

Adams struggled as well for Buffalo State. He ended up with 12 points on 3-for-19 shooting.

“Shots just weren’t falling today,” said Adams. “Easy fix; just get in the gym and put in extra hours.”

Adams finished 2-for-6 from behind the arc.

“Before, it was mostly three pointers, so he was trying to get into the paint and draw some fouls,” said Ansari. “He had a bad shooting night. I don’t think they were all horrible shots, but a couple, he could’ve looked to get others involved. He was trying to work and get back into it but he pressed it a little bit too much.”

Adams finished with seven rebounds in the loss.

“He’s got to keep his head up and keep shooting,” said Grant. “I’m not going to say ‘stop shooting’ but he has got to keep his head and move on to the next. That’s one game”

Aside from Grant, junior guard Delen Ramovic played a good game off the bench, filling in the minutes lost by Christopher because of the foul trouble.

Ramovic finished with 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 22 minutes.

“That’s my guy,” said Grant with a smile. “In fact, we were working on kicking out on a post play. If they double me, I’m going to throw it out to him and it happened one time tonight and I was like ‘Oh, we worked on that!’ Big shoutout to him, I’m proud of him. We just got to keep it up.”

Ramovic also was able to grab five rebounds, but his plus/minus finished at -8, tied for the worst on the Bengals on Saturday.

“He played well. We’re going to build on that, too,” said Ansari. “He was also in a little better shape coming into this year. He’s a big option for us this year”

The Bengals will look to bounce back on Friday as they host crosstown rivals, the Medaille Mavericks, in the second game of day one of the 33rd Buffalo State Cole’s Classic. The Washington and Jefferson Presidents and the Morrisville State Mustangs are the other teams partaking in this year’s Cole’s Classic.