Signs that Will Regan was warming to his new role in a new offense at a new school were becoming more frequent. Twice he’d struck for 15 points in a game. On Wednesday at Milwaukee he went for a career high in rebounds.
It was apparent the former Nichols star was settling in and, on Saturday night at Alumni Arena, the sophomore transfer from Virginia hit full bloom.
Showing both an inside-outside versatility and a willingness to grind, Regan poured in a career-high 26 points and carried the Bulls to a 77-67 victory over Niagara and their first winning streak of the season.
Regan’s outburst came on a night when UB (4-7) needed it. Fouls limited leading scorer Javon McCrea to just 21 minutes and three points, more than 14 under his season average. Regan’s three from the corner with 3:17 proved the telling blow, giving the Bulls a 66-58 advantage with 3:17 left.
“I’ve noticed it’s been open a lot, that shot,” Regan said. “I had the same exact thing against Canisius and I missed the shot but I knew the shot was there. So it just kind of came around and I slipped to the corner because the inside guy [in the zone] is not stretching out there.”
It was Regan’s night all the way around. He was 8 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc. He was perfect in seven trips to the line, bettered his career-high with eight rebounds, handed out two assists and blocked a shot.
“That’s why they won,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said of Regan. “Now, did Regan get those shots because we worried so much about McCrea? I would say maybe, right? We were worried so much about McCrea. You want to beat UB I think for the most part you got to make sure McCrea doesn’t get 30.”
Jarod Oldham produced 18 points and Tony Watson 14 for UB, with Oldham’s penetration and Watson’s long-range shooting proving vital throughout the second half.
Niagara’s top scorers, Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason, again led the way for the 3-6 Purple Eagles. Green scored 17 of his 23 and Mason 12 of his 18 in the second half
UB’s multiple scoring threats enabled Regan to get his open look from the corner. Niagara played zone throughout, and on this occasion the wing had his attention split by both Regan and Watson positioned to pull the trigger from three while McCrea fought for position underneath.
“They had to guard them so I got the open shot,” Regan said.
The Bulls have won four straight in the series.
UB pushed its lead into double digits early in the second half, only for Niagara to reel off eight points and close within 41-38. Mason had five points in the burst, drawing a third foul on McCrea in the process.
The Bulls got their lead back to six at 47-41 on a three-point play by Oldham and again went up six, 53-47, on an Oldham drive.
Niagara pushed back. Green scored on a pretty drive and Ameen Tanksley made two free throws and it was 56-54. This time Watson righted the Bulls. A pair of threes, one out of the media timeout with 7:45 remaining, put UB on top, 62-56. Niagara, which trailed from start to finish, never got closer than five as Regan shut the door.
“It felt really nice obviously just to have a good game,” said Regan, a two-time Buffalo News Player of the Year at Nichols. “I’m tough on myself so when I don’t play to my potential it’s frustrating. So to have a game like that is a relief sort of, a confidence-builder, things like that for me.”
Niagara turned the tables on UB in the rebounding department, winning the boards, 39-32, and becoming only the second team to outrebound the Bulls this season. Where it faltered was it produced just eight points off UB’s 12 turnovers. The Bulls scored 16 points off Niagara’s 15 giveaways.
“I don’t know if it’s this simple, but I thought anytime we made a mistake … I thought they made the shots, they capitalized,” Mihalich said. “They made us pay and that’s how you win. While I’m not sure that we did capitalize. That’s why you lose.”