BUFFALO, NY - For the first time in school history the Buffalo Bulls have gone a perfect 3-0 against Big 4 competition as the Bulls put a stamp on non-conference play with an 84-79 win over St. Bonaventure, snapping the Bonnies' seven-game win streak.
The Bulls close out non-conference action with a 9-4 record, the third time in six years they have won nine or more games before league play.
UB had to fight through a tough start that saw St. Bonaventure race out to a 20-8 lead just eight minutes into the game. The Bulls continued to trail by 12 at 26-14 when senior Gabe Grant hit a three-pointer, the first of five straight points for the Bulls.
Buffalo continued to fight back as it took a 30-24 deficit and turned it into its first lead, scoring eight straight points. A layup from Jeenathan Williams gave the Bulls a 32-30 lead with 3:17 left.
St. Bonaventure would go back ahead by six, but a corner three in the final seconds of the half from Ronaldo Segu put the Bulls into the break trailing by just three.
Coming out of the half, the Bulls scored 49 points, outscoring the Bonnies by eight over the final 20 minutes. A fast-break layup from sophomore Josh Mballa put the Bulls ahead four early in the second stanza, but St. Bonaventure would again regain the lead at 57-56 with 10:46 left. From there, the Bulls went on a 10-2 run to take a 66-59 lead.
Leading 66-61, the Bulls rattled off seven straight to take its largest lead of the night at 73-61 with 4:36 left. The highlight of that run was a thunderous dunk from junior Jayvon Graves.
UB continued to lead by 12 at 79-67 with just 1:36 left, but the Bonnies made it interesting as they went on a 10-1 run in just over 40 seconds to pull within three. Buffalo was able to hit its free throws late though to hold on for the victory.
"I thought both Jayvon and Josh were outstanding tonight and really kept us in the game early on," said head coach Jim Whitesell. "St. Bonaventure came out quick and you can see why they had won seven in a row and played for a conference championship last year.
"I really like the way we opened the second half. I thought the whole second half we played pretty good basketball right up until the end there, but we will work on the press and get better at it. These are hard fought games and our guys knew we were going to play a really good basketball team tonight."
Graves led the way with a career high 28 points as he went 9-of-16 from the floor, while adding five boards, three assists, and four steals.
Mballa notched his second double-double of the season with 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, five of those coming on the offensive end. Williams added 12 points and five rebounds, his fourth straight game in double figures.
Senior Antwain Johnson had eight points as did Davonta Jordan, who added five assists and five steals. Segu had seven points and five assists.
The Bulls outrebounded the Bonnies, 43-37 and they held a 29-13 advantage on the fast break.
St. Bonaventure's Kyle Lofton had a game-high 32 points in the losing effort as the sophomore went 15-of-340 from the floor with eight assists.
Buffalo will open 2020 and Mid-American Conference play on Saturday when it closes out a five-game home stand by hosting Northern Illinois. Tip off is at 2pm.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.