Bengals boast firepower, but hope for improved defensive play


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Lovell Smith, 35, scored his 1,000th point in his Bengal career this season alongside his teammate Nico McLean.

Jahvon Graham, Reporter

After an underwhelming 2015-16 season that ended in the first round of the playoffs, the Buffalo State men’s basketball team is ready to make strides in their 2016-17 campaign.

With a roster that includes a plethora of returning seniors — three of which were All-SUNYAC players last season — there should be no shortage of firepower. Their experience and chemistry should bode well for the entire team.

“I don’t believe it’s only beneficial for me, but for the whole team,” senior guard Nico McLean said. “We have learned from last season, we’ve grown as a team and the maturity level is excellent.”

Senior guards McLean, Lovell Smith and junior guard Mike Henry were All-SUNYAC mentions a season ago. While each one of them can put the ball in the bucket, they also have other components to their game.

Smith led the team in scoring with 17 points per game which, good for sixth in the conference. McLean led the team with 106 assists while also leading in free throw makes with 106 and averaging 14.7 points per game. Mike Henry was third in the SUNYAC, averaging 8.5 rebounds per game while scoring 15.2 points per game.

“We learned that everyone has a role, and for us to be successful, everyone has to play their role,” McLean said. “This year is vital for the seniors because this is our last go around.”

Leadership should not be a problem for this team; they boast a roster full of guys who embody it.

“I definitely feel as though I am the leader, but it is something that I’m used to,” senior guard Jordan Glover said.

“Two other leaders on this team are Lovell Smith and Nico McLean. They are two of my fellow seniors, so we all been through the good and the bad, so the team looks up to us to lead the pack,” Glover added.

While offense shouldn’t be a problem for the Bengals, defense is going to be the x-factors.

“Defense. We have to play defense for a full 40 minutes each and every night,” Glover said. “We know we can score with anybody, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t get stops on the defensive end.”

Buffalo State’s preferred style of play is no secret. They will play an up-and-down, fast tempo.

“We are a run-and-gun team and everyone knows that,” Glover said. “We want to run the opponent the whole night, and then by time the last five minutes come around, they’re already tired while we still have that extra burst of energy.”

An under-the-radar player to keep an eye on this season is senior forward Leon Moise.

“One player I think made a huge improvement is Leon Moise, one of our big men,” Glover said.

The seniors will play with a chip on their shoulders knowing it could be their last year playing organized basketball.

“Knowing that this is our last year, he has spent that extra time in the weight room, conditioning and working on his post moves. He knows in order for us to win a SUNYAC championship, he has to be playing at a high level,” Glover said.

The players seem locked in and ready to get the season underway.

“The key to this season is focus, being single-minded and devoted to the task at hand. One team, one mind, one goal,” McLean said.

The Buffalo State men’s basketball team opened their season this past Tuesday in Pennsylvania against University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. The result wasn’t available at time of press.