Reggie Witherspoon, Javon McCrea and Tony Watson entered Saturday’s postgame news conference seething about what transpired in the University at Buffalo’s 65-64 loss to Manhattan in a BracketBuster game.
It was difficult to pinpoint the rage. It could be the end of their three-game winning streak or how the Bulls melted under the Jaspers’ defense to the tune of 24 possession-killing turnovers. The source of anger might be the game’s final possession.
Manhattan’s Shane Richards missed a 15-footer with 11 seconds left, giving UB (11-16) a chance to win. Watson, lining up for a three-pointer near the top of the key, tried to lean into RaShawn Stores to draw a foul but Stores stripped the ball away. UB’s Jarryn Skeete tracked down the ball and attempted the potential winner but was sandwiched between two defenders and misfired before the buzzer sounded.
Asked if he was fouled on the play, Watson instead accepted responsibility for the loss.
“The full blame is on me, senior leader, I should have stepped up and made a play,” said Watson, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “It was a bad play by myself and I should have been attacking the basket. ... I put Jarryn in a bad situation. He gave me the ball at the end of the game. There shouldn’t have been any chance where he got the ball back. I should have passed to the guy who was shooting or taken the shot myself.”
The ending took away another outstanding game from junior forward McCrea, who had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, 11 rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
“When he could get the ball over his shoulder without a couple of guys hanging on his arms, I thought he did a great job,” said Witherspoon with a not-so-subtle shot at the officiating.
Watson, the Mid-American Conference Player of the Week, continued his torrid shooting by going 7 of 10 from three-point range. His trey with 44.3 seconds remaining in front of the Bulls’ bench pulled his team within one at 65-64. The Jaspers made sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Manhattan coach Steve Masiello spoke to his team about Iona’s 65-64 loss Saturday to Indiana State where the Gaels were up by a point, gambled for a steal and put the Sycamores in a 5-on-4 situation. Indiana State won on a layup with four seconds left.
“You keep everyone on your chest, switch into everything and don’t trail any action,” Masiello told his team. “Ironically, it came down to that.”
Up until the final possession, the Bulls did nearly everything right to claw back into the game. The Jaspers (11-16) made only two field goals in the game’s final 10:37. But turnovers – 18 in the first half – proved to be difficult to overcome. Skeete finished with 11 points and 10 assists but he also had five turnovers.
“We didn’t think they were a pretty good basketball club so we probably came out not as focused as we should have been,” McCrea said.
During one stretch in the first half, UB committed turnovers on five of six possessions and watched its 10-point lead evaporate to just 36-33 by halftime.
“We just didn’t take care of the basketball,” Witherspoon said. “When you shoot 21 for 38 you should win. And we didn’t. If you only get 38 shots and the other team gets off 50, you have a problem. But when you shoot 55 percent and they shoot 42, typically you should win but we didn’t take care of the basketball.”
The loss comes at a tough time. The Bulls step back into conference play beginning Wednesday at Kent State before hosting league favorites Akron and Ohio Saturday and March 5.
For more on this game, go to the Campus Watch blog at buffalonews.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org