Too little, too late, two missed opportunities


Dave Deluca/ The Record

Smith led the Bengals with 17 points and 11 rebounds on Friday

Jahvon Graham, Reporter

Two close losses by a combined five points have the Buffalo State men’s basketball team fighting an uphill battle for a playoff spot.

They fell just short against the Cortland Red Dragons, 63-62 on Friday, and suffered the fourth loss in their last six games with a 75-71 loss at Oswego on Saturday. The losses dropped their record to 12-9 (6-8 SUNYAC).

“We have to close the deal,” head coach Fajri Ansari said. “We put ourselves in a position to win, but then we give the other teams opportunities. We should be taking those opportunities away from them; it’s frustrating to say the least.”

Junior guard Lovell Smith had a solid game on Friday, posting a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

“It’s very difficult. One-point losses are the worst,” Smith said. “It hurts a lot to think about, but I know we still put fear in a lot of teams because we can battle.”

Neither team had an all-around solid performance as both teams displayed poor shooting. The Bengals shot 36 percent from the field while the Red Dragons shot 33 percent. Shooting from the 3-point line was even worse as Buffalo State shot 2 of 18 (11 percent) from the arc while Cortland shot 4 of 18 (22 percent).

“Adjusting to the tight rims they had was hard,” Smith said. “We took a lot of unnecessary shots and sort of played Cortland’s game instead of ours. We just have to adjust better and come out ready from the start.”

Junior guard Nico McLean and sophomore Michael Henry gave great scoring help in the absence of starting point guard Jordan Glover, who missed both weekend contests due to a strained Achilles tendon. McLean posted 11 points and 7 rebounds while Henry added another 10 points along with 9 rebounds.

Buffalo State fell short of their season average for assists per game during the contest. Coming into the game, they averaged 16.7 assists per game. Against Cortland, however, they managed only 10. Glover was sorely missed.

“It’s very tough because I know what I am capable of doing. I can help this team in many ways,” Glover said. “You never want to sit out; if you’re a competitor, you always want to be on the floor going to war with your team.”

Smith believes that even without Glover, the team has enough weapons to pose a threat to any opponent they may face.

“We have to put an end to this losing thing and play how coach has been telling us to play all year,” Smith said. “If we come out of the gate strong as a team, they will be so lost on who to focus on because we have so many options.”

Like many of the losses this year for the Bengals, Saturday’s contest against Oswego was hard fought. Oswego led 34-32 at halftime, and proceeded to go up by as many as 13 points in the second half. The Bengals cut the deficit to 74-71 with 44 seconds remaining, but ultimately fell short, 75-71.

Junior guard Nico McLean was the leading scorer for Buffalo State and stuffed the stat sheet in all categories. He scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished six assists, blocked two shots and collected 3 steals.

The Bengals’ shooting struggles from the 3-point line continued. They shot 4 of 16 (25 percent) while Oswego shot 9 of 27 (33 percent). Turnovers were a problem this game as the Bengals committed 20 while Oswego committed only 12. However, Buffalo State took care of the job on the boards, outrebounding Oswego 47-35.

Henry and senior guard Kevin Marmolejos contributed 13 points apiece. Henry also grabbed eight rebounds while Marmolejos had three.

With four games left in the season and the playoffs on the line, the pressure is on.

“It’s a sad feeling because now we have to hope other teams win and others don’t to decide our fate,” said Smith. “We played down to our competition the whole year and now it’s starting to hit us hard. We all know it’s something we could have done better individually and together, so now it’s a very quiet locker room.”

The Bengals hope to put a win streak together, get into the playoffs, get Jordan Glover back and into the lineup, then go forward from there.

Ansari wasn’t shy about his sense of urgency.

“We’re fighting for a playoff spot, so every win is to our benefit and every loss is to our detriment.”

email: [email protected]