Men’s basketball sneaks into the playoffs

Jahvon Graham, Reporter

With their backs up against the wall, needing two wins to even have a shot at a playoff spot, the Buffalo State men’s basketball team did just that over the weekend to secure the final seed in the SUNYAC playoff bracket.

“I believe we play a lot better under pressure. We made things a lot harder than it needed to be this whole season,” said junior guard Lovell Smith. “We knew that it was do or die this weekend. We came together as a team, got rid of the negative energy, made sure we played as a big family and got it done.”

A 94-79 victory on Friday night against New Paltz and a 96- 86 win Saturday against Oneonta pushed the Bengals’ record to 15- 10 (9-9 SUNYAC) to finish the regular season and sneak into the playoffs.

Led by a red-hot Lovell Smith, Buffalo State dominated New Paltz Friday night. Smith put up 35 points, making 16 of 25 from the field. They found themselves leading by 36 on two different occasions in the contest. Smith also had six assists, seven steals and eight rebounds. Junior guard Nico McLean added 16 points along with eight rebounds.

The Bengals dominated in the paint, outscoring the Hawks 66- 38. The turnover battle was also won 24-12. Those 24 turnovers were converted into 30 points for the Bengals.

Saturday against Oneonta, the offensive effort was again led by Smith, who had 27 points. Senior guard Kevin Marmolejos added 26 points while sophomore guard Mike Henry scored 21 points with seven rebounds and six assists. Nico McLean was reliable per usual with 15 points and a career-high 10 assists.

Even the bench outscored Oneonta 49-18. The Bengals were solid in transition, scoring 30 fast-break points compared to just two for Oneonta.

This time last week, the Bengals were coming off back-to-back losses. Their playoff lives were in jeopardy. The team is proud to have fought itself into a playoff spot, but by no means are they content.

“Well, we are happy we can still practice with each other, but we are not satisfied with just the playoffs, we want to go to the tournament,” said Smith. “I hate being the sixth seed, but there isn’t a team in this league we can’s defeat, so I’m not worried about it. We have to bring home a championship.”

Junior guard Jordan Glover has been sitting out with an Achilles injury for the past several weeks.

“Truthfully, I’m not sure (if I’ll be able to play). I’m still working with the training staff day by day to keep me ready,” Glover said. “I’m not 100 percent at all, but I’ll try my best to be there for my team. Ultimately, it’s in the hands of the training staff.”

The Bengals hope to have Glover available to give them another weapon. If not, they’re going to have to continue to rely on who has gotten them to this point, namely Smith.

“I’m not even playing at my highest level, not yet. My shot has been off and I missed a lot of free throws,” Smith said. “I haven’t been getting as much blocks as usual, so once my defense is on full lockdown I’ll know I’ve reached my full potential. I want it so that my man doesn’t even touch the ball.”

The Bengals will go on the road Tuesday to face Brockport in the quarterfinals of the SUNYAC playoffs. They matched up with Brockport twice in the regular season, going 1-1 in the competitions. They lost to Brockport in the quarterfinals last season, 78- 73, and in their last playoff berth prior to that in 2012-13, 89-83.

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