Men’s Basketball pull away late, beat cross-town rivals 86-76

Emmanuel Rodriguez, Sports Editor

The SUNY Buffalo State Men’s Basketball team were able to use a 20-13 run over the final 5:32 to push their way past the Medaille Mavericks in a chippy second game of day one of the 33rd Cole’s Classic.

Unlike in their first game of the season, the Bengals were able to swing the ball around and benefit from the movement. Four different Bengals scored in double digits for Buffalo State on Friday night.

“I am very happy,” said Bengals head coach Fajri Ansari. Medaille is able to score in bunches and I felt like if we could make the extra pass, we’ll be able to get good looks.”

The Bengals slightly held the advantage in the first half of play. They were able to force 11 Medaille turnovers that led to 14 points. The Bengals also held a slight 14-12 advantage in the paint. Buffalo State also had more second chance points and bench points than Medaille in the first half.

Although the lead changed four times and was tied seven different times in the first half, the Bengals were able to close out strong. The Bengals went on a 9-0 run towards the end of the first half. Buffalo State had the lead for 12 minutes in the first half while Medaille was only able to hold a lead for three minutes in the first stanza. Medaille’s biggest first half lead was three with 14:27 left.

At the half, the Bengals held a 41-34 lead.

But the Mavericks regrouped in the locker room. A 12-5 run by the Mavericks in the first five and a half minutes meant the Mavericks tied it up at 46. They traded buckets over the next nine minutes as the largest lead was five over that span.

Also during that span, things began to get chippy at the very rowdy and loud Buffalo State Sports Arena.

Fans on both sides of this cross-town rivalry began to trash-talk the players on the court and each other.

“I love it. That was me, that is me. I love it” repeated Bengals freshman guard Aaron Davis. “I live for moments like that and I embrace it. I love it.”

Mavericks’ Jonathan Smith and Kendall McGill were given technical fouls. The Bengals’ senior guard Steven Calvo and junior guard Jordan Christopher were also issued technical fouls.

“I was disappointed with one tech we got,” said Ansari. “We warned (the referees). These guys know each other, Medaille kids come over and play (recreational basketball), so it’s not really anything too personal. It was just competitive basketball but again, you have to stay focused. You can’t get caught up in that because it’s our detriment if we do.”

After Smith’s jumper broke a 69-69 tie and gave the Mavericks a two-point lead, Davis was to stroke a three-pointer to give the Bengals a one-point lead with 4:08 left in the game. The Bengals did not relinquish that lead again.

Davis was able to get a steal on the ensuing Mavericks possession and darted back the other way and got fouled. Davis calmly sank two free throws to extend the Bengals lead to three.

On the ensuing play, the Mavericks were unable to drain a game-tying three. Calvo got the rebound and Grant laid it up and in to give the Bengals a 77-71 lead with 3:10 left.

After both teams botched a couple of offensive possessions, Davis was fouled again with 1:59 left and sank another two free throws to extend the Bengals lead.

A late Mavericks’ cut the deficit to five, but that is when McGill lost his composure. Unhappy with being charged for his fourth personal foul, he kept complaining to the referee, who issued him technical foul, meaning McGill picked up his fifth foul there and fouled out.

Davis sank the two technical free throws before Christopher, who drew the fourth foul on McGill, sank two free throws of his own. This four-point foul gave the Bengals a nine-point lead with 1:16 left.

Another two free throws by Davis sealed the Bengals’ first win of the season.

“Honestly, I didn’t have that good of a first half,” admitted Davis. “My teammates kept pushing me. I’m the point guard, I’m the floor general. They told me we go as I go, so I just tried to push the tempo and things opened up and we went from there.”

Davis had two points, one assist and one rebound in the first half. He finished with 19 points, six assists and four rebounds. Davis shot 5-for-10 from the field and went 8-for-11 from the free throw line. His 19 points were tied for the most among the Bengals.

“I asked him ‘why are you holding back? Are you nervous? You’re better than what you’re showing. Just go ahead and play,'” said Ansari about Davis. “He’s got confidence. I am happy he had a breakout game. I hope he can continue that way the rest of the year.”

Bengals junior guard Sheldon Adams bounced back nicely. He also had 19 points in the victory.

“I think (Adams) played good,” said Grant with a mouthful of pizza. “He made up for last game. His plus/minus was high, so that’s one thing to look at. I’m proud of him.”

Grant played well, too. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Grant’s plus/minus was at 15, the highest in the game.

“I think I played good,” said Grant. “I stayed aggressive, I didn’t really force anything and once I started to get double teamed, I was able to kick out, so I think we played good today. We probably could’ve done better in my opinion, though.”

Christopher also had a bounce back game. He finished with a double-double, 13 points, 14 rebounds.

“(Christopher) had a phenomenal bounce back game. Phenomenal,” repeated Davis. “We both fouled out last game and we were able to talk and said ‘we just got to keep going’ and he kept it going. He stayed out of foul trouble and was really getting after it.”

For the Mavericks, Kirk Hawkins exploded for 29 points, six assists and four rebounds. This is coming off the heels of a 30-point showing in their last game.

“We did a good job in the first half and then I think we forgot what the strategy was,” said Ansari. “(Hawkins) is a bit of a streaky shooter, he tends to force it a bit but he’s so quick and strong and athletic. It’s hard for anyone to guard someone like that when he gets it going.”

The game did end on a bit of a sour note.

After the final buzzer went off, Mavericks’ freshman Will Saunders bumped into a fan who had made his way onto the court. Saunders looked back while making his way to the locker room and said an expletive. The fan responded, which prompted Saunders to turn and begin to walk back towards the heckler. Teammates, campus police and fans intervened before things got too serious.

The Mavericks will take on the Morrisville State Mustangs in the consolation game of the 2019 Cole’s Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.

With the victory, the Bengals improve to 1-1 on the season. They will take on the Washington and Jefferson Presidents in the championship game of the 2019 Cole’s Classic. They will tip-off at approximately 4 p.m.