Dave DeLuca/The Record
The SUNY Buffalo State Men’s basketball team were able to finish strong, ending the undefeated run the Washington and Jefferson Presidents had going on Saturday evening at the Buffalo State Sports Arena, 78-71.
The win gives the Bengals their first Cole’s Classic win in three years.
Former Bengals point guard Norman Simmons, who led the Bengals to their last SUNAYC title and a Sweet 16 appearance, spoke to the team before the game to give them some motivation. It appeared junior guard Sheldon Adams took that advice to heart and rose above the rest.
Both the Bengals and Presidents traded buckets for the first few minutes, but after Presidents’ guard Zach Queen hit a three to tie it up at 10, the Bengals went on a 12-2 run over the next three minutes to give them a ten-point lead, the largest in the first half.
The Presidents however used smaller runs in spurts to stay in the game. They worked to turn the ten-point deficit into just a one-point difference in a few instances as the first half winded down.
After the first half, the Bengals held a slim 39-35 lead. At this point, Adams had 23 points, but the next highest scorers were junior center Zion Guzman-Milton and freshman guard Argjend Imeri with only four points.
The Bengals came out of the locker room slowly as the Presidents opened the second half on a 5-0 run to give them their first lead since the opening minute. That led to a disgruntled Bengals head coach Fajri Ansari to call a timeout.
Whatever Ansari said in that huddle got to the Bengals.
Following that timeout, Bengals senior forward Kay Grant was able to benefit from an Aaron Davis assist to lay the ball up and in, plus a foul, to give Buffalo State the lead with 18:45 left in the half. He calmly hit the and-one free throw to push the lead up to 42-40.
The Bengals held on to that lead the rest of the evening.
The Presidents did not go away easily however. Determined to spoil the evening for the hosts, the Presidents kept it close, but the Bengals simply had an answer for whatever the Presidents threw at them.
Adams finished with 31 points, tying his career high.
“He was due,” said Ansari. “He was shooting a really bad percentage in the first few games. Again, a couple of the shots were forced but most of the shots he was taking in the first few games, he can make them.”
Adams finished 11-for-20 from the field, 5-for-10 from behind the arc and a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
“It was just that motivation I needed, really, the first game,” said Adams. “It was a bounce back after the first game where I shot 3-for-19 and I felt as if I let my team down. So, lately, I’ve been in the gym, trying to get my shots up and be that motive for the team to get these wins.”
The Bengals played impressive defense on Saturday. Buffalo State forced 18 turnovers with nine steals. This led to 22 points and 23 fast-break points.
“I always say ‘defense generates offense,'” said Ansari. “I knew they were a very well-coached team, really methodical and if you let them control the tempo, it can be dangerous.”
After dropping a career-high 19 points Friday night, Davis only netted four against the Presidents. However, Davis finished with eight assists and had three steals, leading all players.
“Defense starts with an attitude. That’s the first thing,” said Ansari. “You have got to get hungry. Too many guys nowadays, they focus on the offensive aspect of the game.”
Bengals junior guard Jordan Christopher followed last night’s double-double with a respectable 13 point, 8 rebound game. He had the highest plus/minus in the game with 11.
Imeri finished with a new career-high 10 points in the win.
With the victory, the Bengals improve to 2-1 on the young season. The Bengals will have some time off now as they will wait ten days to play again when they host the No. 25 St. John Fisher Cardinals (2-1) on Nov. 26. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.