Buffalo (8-13) at Western Michigan (13-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 2, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Arena (5,421) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: UB 5-4, WMU 6-1. Away Record: UB 3-6, WMU 5-6. Neutral Record: UB 0-3, WMU 2-0. Conference Record: UB 3-4, WMU 5-2. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 10-8.
GAME NOTES: The surging Buffalo Bulls are set to stampede into University Arena for a Mid-American Conference bout against the Western Michigan Broncos.
WMU holds a narrow 10-8 all-time series lead over the Bulls. Buffalo won the last meeting, 59-57, at Alumni Arena last season to mark its fourth win in five games versus the Broncos.
Reggie Witherspoon's Bulls have been on fire lately and picked up their third win in four outings on Wednesday with a 90-73 rout of the Central Michigan Chippewas at home. Buffalo's recent hot streak has helped it arrive at an 8-13 overall record including its 3-4 mark in the MAC standings. The Bulls, who were a 20-win team a season ago, are still one of the toughest draws in the league due to their capabilities on the offensive end of the floor.
In their victory over CMU, the Bulls connected on 57.5 percent (30-of-52) of their field goal attempts and converted 23-of-26 at the charity stripe while also holding a 39-22 edge in the rebounding battle. Cameron Downing scored a career-high 21 points off the bench to lead the way. Auraum Nuiriankh went 2- of-10 from the field, but made up for it by sinking all 12 of his free-throw attempts on his way to a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds for Buffalo in the decision over the Chippewas. Also getting into the action, Javon McCrea tallied 17 points and eight rebounds, while Jarryn Skeete and Tony Watson scored 12 and 11 points, respectively, to help the Bulls to their third win in four outings.
Buffalo will continue to rack up wins if it keeps McCrea the focus of the gameplan. The junior forward has stepped up to post a league-best 19.6 points to go along with 9.0 boards per MAC contest. McCrea has six double-doubles this season, already equaling his season totals of both his freshman and sophomore seasons. Buffalo's recent improvement may be related to Will Regan's recent outburst from distance. The sophomore forward has launched 22 3-point attempts over the past four games after only attempting 35 over the first 17 games.
The Broncos have plenty of momentum of their own coming into this one, as they defeated Miami-Ohio, 72-68, on Wednesday to notch their fifth consecutive decision. WMU's 5-2 league record places it in first place in the West Division and its only two setbacks in conference action came to the undefeated Ohio University and Akron squads. The recent success has come through a group effort as five players are averaging 9.6 points per game or better in the current win streak, during which the team is hitting on 50.4 percent of its attempts from the floor.
WMU managed to overcome 23 turnovers against the RedHawks and recover from a three-point halftime deficit behind an impressive offensive showing. The team hit 57.1 percent of its field goal tries and added 20-of-32 at the charity stripe while limiting Miami to 38.6 percent shooting. Shayne Whittington paced a group of four double-figures with 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field. Darius Paul tallied 12 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Broncos, while Nate Hutcheson and Brandon Pokley scored 11 points apiece.
Whittington is one of the top all-around centers in the conference as he paces WMU with 11.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per tilt, but he is not the only steady contributor. Hutcheson (11.3 ppg), Paul (10.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Pokley (9.4 ppg), and David Brow (8.7 ppg) have all played significant roles during the team's recent wave of success. In league action only, the Broncos are fifth in the MAC in scoring offense (66.1 ppg) and tied for second in scoring defense (57.4).
The tempo of this game will play a big role in the outcome. Buffalo is going to thrive if the possessions are more numerous and WMU will benefit from a slower paced contest. The Bulls' only loss in their last four came after the blew a big lead to the first place Zips. They will learn from their mistakes and hang on for a road win if they manage to get up in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 71, Western Michigan 67
02/02 10:35:15 ET