The forceful frontcourt play displayed by Javon McCrea and Will Regan against Binghamton was exactly what Bobby Hurley envisioned when he became the University at Buffalo’s coach.
He saw McCrea dodging double and triple teams and controlling the paint, while Regan worked his game inside and out.
McCrea has lived up on his end, but Regan was having a rough go at it early although he took a huge step to fulfilling his role on Monday afternoon.
The Nichols School product scored a season high 18 points and added seven rebounds in proving to be a worthy sidekick to McCrea in the Bulls’ 87-57 victory over the Bearcats in front of 3,136 at Alumni Arena.
Binghamton (2-9) didn’t have the size or strength to match up with the Bulls inside, especially against McCrea who torched the Bearcats in the post.
McCrea finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three assists in 29 minutes – all without a single turnover.
Coming into the season, McCrea and Regan were considered one of the top frontcourt tandems in the Mid-American Conference and they proved it against Binghamton.
“They seem like a perfect match for each other,” Hurley said after his Bulls outscored the Bearcats in the lane, 38-22. “Javon can certainly step away from the basket and go off the bounce but Will can stretch the defense out because he makes shots and is a good decision-maker. Javon really handles his business inside so now you really have Javon stepping away some and Will mixing it up in there so it’s exciting coaching these two guys.”
Even Regan admits it was an interesting start to the season after averaging 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds last year in his first season at UB after transferring from Virginia.
“The first two games I was in foul trouble and it’s hard for me to get my mojo,” said Regan, who has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games to increase his scoring average to 9.1 points. “I was doing things but I wasn’t really finding my shot. ... For me I learned, too, that I can get a lot off the offensive glass.”
Five games into the season Regan connected on a grand total of 11 field goals, but against the Bearcats he was 7 of 10 and collected six offensive boards.
“Will is a great player and I feel that all that comes because he works so hard,” McCrea said. “He’s always in the gym, always getting shots up and he’s very determined.”
The Bulls (5-4) opened the game up on the strength of a 10-2 run that closed the first half. Regan capped the spurt with a three-pointer and UB led, 40-27, at intermission.
“As a player, you know your time is going to come and you keep doing what you can control and everything will fall into place,” he said.
Said Hurley: “He really had a nose for the ball and was dialed into being physical in the paint and we exploit them in those areas and then stepping away from the basket. It’s great when Will has that mixture of hitting the perimeter shots and going inside and mixing it up.”
Josh Freelove finished 6 of 10 overall, including 5 of 9 from three-point range, for 19 points, while Jarod Oldham had nine assists and no turnovers.
Monday’s game had the potential to be problematic for Buffalo after an emotional overtime loss to Manhattan on Saturday. UB led, 77-74, when Manhattan’s Shane Richards forced overtime by making three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt by Jarryn Skeete with five seconds left.
One of the issues against Manhattan was turnovers but UB committed just seven against Binghamton (2-9) while registering 21 assists and 28 field goals.
“We’re getting mentally tough and the ability to bounce back is not an easy thing,” Hurley said. “Games like that are demoralizing when you don’t win and everyone felt the pain in that. They responded the right way by being tough and wanting to feel good about ourselves and our basketball team.”