Men’s basketball see playoff hopes shattered


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Rey Jordan tied a career-high by scoring ten points against Potsdam.

Having one returning starter from a season ago was a tough pill to swallow for the Buffalo State men’s basketball team. An even tougher realization is missing the SUNYAC playoffs for the first time in six years.

The Bengals had to come to grips with missing the postseason following an 88-73 loss to Plattsburgh on Saturday. Buffalo State defeated Potsdam, 95-80, on Friday but had their playoff hopes shattered by Plattsburgh (21-4 overall, 15-3 SUNYAC) the next day.

“It’s just disappointing,” Buffalo State coach Fajri Ansari said. “I felt like we were capable (of making it). We played pretty good on Friday, better than we have played in awhile. At the end of the day, Plattsburgh had some seniors that really stepped up. When plays had to be made, they stepped up in areas where we fell a little short.”

Needing a win, Buffalo State trailed Plattsburgh, 76-71, after a Maurice Miles drive with just under four minutes remaining. Plattsburgh would take immediate control from there, going eight for eight at the foul line to ice the game and turn it into a 15-point win. Plattsburgh went 21 of 27 at the foul line in the second half.

“It’s an upsetting loss,” sophomore guard Bradley Doyley said. “We fell short. We played good throughout the game but they slipped away in the last couple possessions. We had careless mistakes and they took advantage of it.”

After dropping two games last weekend at home, Buffalo State needed some help to jump into the sixth and final playoff spot. The task became a little tougher when Oswego upset nationally ranked Brockport (first place in SUNYAC) last Tuesday and then Cortland took down Geneseo (third place in SUNYAC). Both Oswego and Cortland sat ahead of Buffalo State in the SUNYAC standings.

“On paper, you would have expected both Cortland and Oswego to lose those games,” said Ansari. “That gave them an extra win, that put both of them a game up on us. Even with that, if we would have won, we would have been in.”

Doyley led Buffalo State with 18 points. Senior Justin Mitchell finished with 17 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in his final game as a Bengal. Buffalo State was able to control the glass against Plattsburgh, holding a 50-41 rebounding edge. The Bengals hit the offensive glass, securing 20 offensive rebounds and converting them into 23 second-chance points.

However, Buffalo State was bogged down by inefficient shooting, going 31 of 77 (40.3 percent) from the field, 2 of 13 from behind the 3-point line (15.4 percent) and 9 of 17 (52.9 percent) from the foul line.

Offensively against Potsdam, Buffalo State was much more efficient from the floor with the help of big nights from Rod Epps (25 points) and Mitchell (23 points). Doyley had 14 points and was one assist shy of a double-double. The Bengals shot 50 percent from the field, 53.3 percent from behind the 3-point line and 77.3 percent at the foul line.

“We decided that we could run on Potsdam because they weren’t deep on their bench,” Doyley said. “We took advantage of that. We gave it our all and played them physical. Coach (Ansari) told me when I got the ball, to just go. Their guards weren’t going to be able to stop it. So when I got into the lane and I either dished it out or took it. That’s all we were doing all game.”

Buffalo State finished the season 12-13 overall and 8-10 in SUNYAC play and had five losses decided by five points or less.  Mitchell was a consistent force for the Bengals all season, finishing third in the SUNYAC in scoring (20.5 ppg) while leading the league in field goal percentage at a 64.6 percent clip. By comparison, John Ivy of Brockport led the SUNYAC in scoring during the regular season (21.3 ppg) while shooting 46.6 percent from the field.

Coming into the season, Buffalo State had to just one returning starter in Epps and had to replace the program’s all-time leading scorer Jake Simmons, point guard Anthony Hamer and six-foot-eight Seth Runge, who led the team in rebounds and blocked shots last season.

Losing Runge to graduation and six-foot-seven Anyar Majak, who didn’t return to the program this season, caused Buffalo State to be thin in the post. That forced Mitchell to play in the paint. As a perimeter player, Mitchell thrives with the ability to shoot the ball and slash to the basket.

With Mitchell playing the “four” or “five,” Buffalo State was undersized for much of the year causing them to finish at the bottom of the league in defense, yielding 81 points a game. The Bengals finished near the top in 3-point field goal defense, limiting opponents to just 32.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc. However, when opponents fed the ball in inside, they found much more success, as Buffalo State finished near the bottom of the league in field goal defense (46.3 percent).

The Bengals had eight new players this season, including six freshmen. Eleven players started at least one game and Mitchell was the lone player to start all 25 games. With the graduation of Mitchell and Chris Castren, the Bengals are set to return 12 players next season.

“Mainly the teams that are at the top of our conference are losing a lot of guys,” freshman guard Jordan Glover, who averaged 21 minutes a game, said. “Those teams have guys that have been playing together for two or three years already. Us as freshmen, this is the first time we’re playing together. It’s good because we all have played some quality minutes in some tough games… we definitely have a lot of experience that other freshmen on a lot of other teams do not because they were sitting behind a lot of juniors and seniors.”

Doyley, a sophomore, will be a more experienced player next season, having averaged 15 minutes a game as a freshman and then 27 minutes a game this season. He finished second in the SUNYAC in assists, averaging 4.8 per game and led the conference in assist to turnover ratio. In his final two games, Doyley came on as a scorer as well, scoring 14 points against Potsdam and then 18 against Plattsburgh.

“(Doyley) sees the floor well,” Ansari said. “He can actually score, too. He averaged high 20’s in high school. He just has to balance scoring and being a facilitator. Sometimes he’s too cautious; he needs to be more aggressive at times. With experience and maturity he’ll be able to balance that out. But that potential to be your scorer and a guy who can distribute the ball makes him a valuable asset to us.”

Epps (15 ppg) and Chris Thompson (9.7 ppg/7 rpg) will also become important assets next season. See The Record in the upcoming weeks as the All-SUNYAC team will be unveiled.

Email: [email protected]