It was a back-and-forth night for the two teams, who waited over 10 months for this contest after weather postponed the original date last January. Despite a tough shooting night for the Bulls, UB was able to take advantage in the rebounding column and at the free throw line for the victory.
Junior Justin Moss paced the Bulls early, recording 11 points and nine rebounds before the break.
South Dakota State built an early eight-point lead in the second half as it took a 41-33 advantage with 14:46 left. Although the Bulls didn't have much success from behind the arc, UB got a huge three from sophomore Shannon Evans to end the run.
Buffalo still trailed 47-40 with just under 12 minutes left when the Bulls went on an 11-0 run over a four and a half minute stretch, capped off on a tip-in three point play from Moss.
UB built its lead to 56-50 with 6:33 left, but a SDSU three-pointer pulled the Jackrabbits back within three. A fast break steal and dunk from Xavier Ford gave the Bulls a 65-61 lead with just under two minutes left, but South Dakota State scored the next five points to take a 66-65 lead with 1:06 remaining.
The Bulls were able to find a wide open Jarryn Skeete, who drove to the lane and put UB up for good with 41 seconds left. Evans hit a couple free throws to give UB a 69-66 advantage and the Bulls fouled with less than three seconds left to remove the possibility of a three-point play. SDSU hit one free throw but was unable to tie the game up as the Bulls came away with the win.
"It was a hard fought game tonight and even though we didn't play our best, I am happy to get a win to start the season," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "We put an emphasis on our rebounding and our defense, and we were able to take advantage of that against a very physical team tonight."
Moss finished with career highs of 25 points and 13 rebounds while going a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. His numbers could have been even higher, but Moss was limited by foul trouble before ultimately fouling out with 3:45 remaining.
Evans dropped 17 points as he picked up his first career start after coming off the bench in every game last season. He added two assists and three steals.
Freshman Lamonte Bearden led all players with six assists, while he also added eight points and a steal. Bearden became the first UB freshman to start the season opener since Greg Gamble in 2005-06.
Ford nearly recorded a double-double off the bench as he finished with eight points and nine rebounds, while Skeete had four points and narrowly missed his career high in rebounds with eight. Senior Will Regan also added four points and five rebounds. Junior Rodell Wigginton scored three points and had two offensive rebounds in his UB debut.
As a team, the Bulls turned the ball over just eight times, while forcing South Dakota State into 14 turnovers. UB also went 24-of-30 from the line in the contest, as opposed to South Dakota State, who went just 14-of-29.
The Bulls will have a quick turnaround as they hit the road for the first time this season, heading to Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday for a matchup with the #1 team in the country, the Kentucky Wildcats. The game will air live on ESPNU at 12:00 pm.
(Courtesy of Buffalo Athletics)