No. 14 UB tops Syracuse, improves to 11-0

The Bulls overcome a poor shooting performance to defeat the Orange behind CJ Massinburg's huge second half

Jon Simon
December 19, 2018 - 12:12 am

Photo: Rich Barnes - USA TODAY Sports

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The 14th-ranked UB men’s basketball team fought their way to a 71-59 win over the Syracuse Orange on Tuesday inside the famous Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Bulls made a quite a statement with the victory; not only did the Bulls improve to 11-0 and avenge their loss last year to the Orange in the very same building, but they defeated, arguably, New York state’s premier college basketball team and got their second road win over a power-five conference team this season.

With road wins over West Virginia and now Syracuse, the Bulls have already built an impressive resume that will help their case for an at-large bid come NCAA Tournament time (if they don’t win the Mid-American Conference Tournament). For now, UB is enjoying Tuesday’s win and their incredible start.

”I’m at a loss for words,” Bulls guard CJ Massinburg said after the victory. “For the city of Buffalo, just driving down to Syracuse I had a lot of people from Buffalo hitting my phone telling me how big this game was for the city. When we go back there, we’re going to feel some love. This is a big win.”

Syracuse is known for their zone defense, and the Bulls struggled against it for much of the game. UB had a hard time getting shots to fall throughout the night, but were able to over come the zone and find a way to win.

“I can never figure that zone out, we were awful against it all night,” Bulls head coach Nate Oats said during his post-game press conference. “I thought our defense and rebounding won the game.”

For the majority of the contest, the Bulls and Orange found themselves in a dogfight. Syracuse got out to an eight-point lead eight minutes into the game, but turnovers and poor rebounding hurt the Orange, and helped the Bulls keep the score tight in the first half.

Both UB and Syracuse committed nine turnovers in the first half, but the Bulls were able to capitalize on the Orange's giveaways. The Bulls dominated Syracuse on the glass all night as well, out-rebounding the Orange 48-35. UB especially hurt Syracuse with their offensive rebounding. They pulled down eight in the first half and 18 total. Many of those offensive rebounds led to extra possessions and key points for UB. The Bulls finished the night with 12 second-chance and 16 fast break points.

“That’s when we’re at our best. When we get stops, we get out in transition,” Oats said. “I thought they did a really good job not letting us get out in transition in the first half. I really thought it was important tonight to get out in transition because you beat the zone before it gets set up. We did that a little bit in the second half but not to the extent I’d liked to.”

Syracuse led at halftime 36-32, but UB came out in the second half and looked like the better team from the get-go. The Bulls' defense continued to play tough and force turnovers and the offense started to move the ball better and shots started to go in.

UB took their first lead of the game with 9:40 left on a three-pointer from Jeremy Harris, capping off an 8-0 run to put the Bulls ahead 50-48.

A few minutes later, the momentum seemed to clearly shift in the Bulls’ favor after a Massinburg three put UB up 55-53. On the next possession, Massinburg drove to the basket for a lay-up and drew a blocking foul on Syracuse’s Elijah Hughes for a chance at a three-point play. Massinburg made the free throw and gave UB a 58-53 lead with 6:39 to go.

“I feel like those were two big plays down the stretch,” Massinburg said. “We were sitting in the under-12 media timeout and we knew it was ‘go time’ then. We can’t play around until there’s four minutes left and then say, ‘Ok, we have to get it now.' No. That was the time we had to get the win and I felt like we really came out and played like that.”

Massinburg had a game-high 25 points for the Bulls, with 19 coming in the second half. Jeremy Harris turned in a solid performance as well, scoring 18 points and adding six rebounds.

Senior forward Nick Perkins finished with a double-double for the second straight game, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Perkins made one of the key plays to seal the game for UB when he came up with an offensive rebound with 2:50 left, leading to an extra possession that was capped off with a lay-up from Massinburg to give the Bulls a 64-57 lead. Perkins grabbed four total offensive rebounds in the game. He also recorded four offensive rebounds last Saturday against Southern Illinois. 

"Fans get excited about the buckets and maybe the blocked shots and things like that," Massinburg said. "Those things are cool. But the things that win games are rebounds, diving on the floor, taking charges and things like that. So during the game we're thinking about those things too."

Massinburg hit a three-pointer on the next possession to increase the Bulls lead up to 67-57 with 2:00 left. It was the final dagger that finished off a Syracuse team that has now dropped two straight games at home.  

The Bulls next game will be another tough road test as they travel to Wisconsin on Friday night to take on the 20th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST, and the game will be televised on FOX Sports 1. You can also listen to the full game, along with complete pre-game and post-game coverage on ESPN 1520.

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