The University at Buffalo avoided its worst start to a men’s basketball campaign in nine seasons, earning a 56-50 triumph over host Evansville (Ind.) on Thursday night in the resumption of the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament.

Javon McCrea’s dunk off a Jarod Oldham steal gave the Bulls (1-2) the lead, 37-36, with 12:33 left in regulation after they had trailed 27-25 at halftime and fell behind by five early in the second half.

While Evansville did tie the game at 45-45, UB refused to let the Purple Aces go ahead as Cameron Downing’s layup with 3:33 left sparked a game-ending 11-5 run. Downing finished with 12 points.

McCrea scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Bulls, who return to action in the tournament tonight at 6 against Western Illinois as part of playing three games in as many days in the event.

In other news, UB signed Shannon Evans of Suffolk, Va., to a letter of intent. The 6-foot-1 guard averaged 19 points, five rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals as a senior at Nansemond River High. He’s playing this year at Hargrave Military Academy.

NU women fall, 79-74

The Niagara women’s basketball team played tough against another postseason participant from last year on its Gallagher Center home floor, but the Purple Eagles still came up short as they dropped a 79-74 decision to Bowling Green.

NU, which dropped a 51-49 decision to NCAA Tournament participant St. Bonaventure on Monday night, trimmed a 10-point deficit with 7:40 left down to four points on three occasions during the final 1:33. The Purple Eagles pulled within three on two Val McQuade free throws with 14 seconds left. But that’s as close as Niagara got as the Falcons, who made the WNIT last year and have appeared in five NCAA Tournaments in the past eight seasons, canned all of their free throws down the stretch.

Lauren Gatto had 16 points and seven rebounds to lead NU, while Chanel Johnson added 14 points.Chrissy Steffen scored a career-high 28 points for BG (2-0), which made more free theows (29) than Niagara attempted (24).

Today’s games

The Niagara men resume play in the 2K Classic, hosting a subregional that includes Bucknell, New Mexico State and West Alabama, this weekend. NU (1-1) plays Bucknell (2-0) at 7 p.m. Bucknell plays New Mexico State Saturday and West Alabama Sunday at the Gallagher Center. NU also plays Sunday afternoon at 4 versus New Mexico State.

In women’s basketball, unbeaten St. Bonaventure, which has received 12 points in each of its first two games from freshman Katie Healy of Lancaster, hosts Colgate at 7 p.m.

UB (0-2) hits the road for a 6:30 p.m. tilt against 2-0 Oakland (Mich.).