Getting things right in crunch time will be a point of emphasis tonight in the Koessler Center.
Stung by recent heartbreakers, Canisius and the University at Buffalo take a break from their conference schedules for a non-league game (7 p.m., 1520). It's the makeup of a contest that was postponed by the blizzard on Nov. 20.
UB (2-16) has lost 11 straight since a Dec. 22 victory over Alcorn State. The Bulls are coming off a 78-77 loss Saturday at Akron, a game they let slip away when Rashod Brown hit a driving shot at the buzzer. It prevented UB from snapping its 22-game road losing streak and posting its first-ever road win in Mid-American Conference play.
Canisius, once 9-3, has fallen to 11-8. The Griffs have lost three of their last four, but feel they should have won them all.
There was an 89-82 overtime defeat Jan. 21 at Siena that saw Canisius blow a 21-point lead in the final 12 minutes of regulation; a one-point loss Jan. 27 to Loyola that stands as the Greyhounds' only MAAC win; and Friday's 91-85 overtime defeat to Fairfield in which Canisius blew a 12-point second-half lead.
Until this stretch, Canisius had been 6-1 in games decided by seven points or less. UB is 2-6 in such games and has two other losses in overtime, by 10 points apiece.
"We have to remember things we had a grasp on early in the year," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald. "Things like shot selection at key moments, understanding time and score. Sometimes you get away from it, and sometimes you just give the other team credit."
Meanwhile, UB coach Reggie Witherspoon was heartened by his team's performance Saturday. The Bulls were 14 of 28 from three-point range, hitting the second-most threes in school history, and showed a crispness that was missing as they endured several blowouts in an 0-9 January.
"Our guys initially were hurt but they got it out of them and realized what we were doing well," Witherspoon said. "We have to do it more often. They've gone through quite a stretch but they're not saying, 'Why me?'
"We were completely out of sync for 2-3 weeks and we addressed that before Akron. We finally got back to playing with more energy."
The Bulls will be down to just six scholarship players tonight as starting center Clement Smith will be sidelined 2-3 weeks with a partially dislocated shoulder suffered Saturday. He'll likely be replaced by 6-foot-10 Kevin Swoffer.
Canisius leads the series, 22-7, and has won seven of the last nine. Included was an 80-78 triumph Nov. 30 at Alumni Arena.
"That was a tough loss but it seems like a long time ago," Witherspoon said. "We have so many guys that played in that game that won't be playing (tonight) that it's hard to compare."
The Bulls tied the game on Damien Foster's three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation but blew a five-point lead in the final 51 seconds of overtime. Hodari Mallory's tip-in with six-tenths of a second left gave Canisius the win.
"Seems like it was two years ago," MacDonald joked.
MacDonald has moved center Darren Fenn back into the starting lineup with Andrew Bush returning to the bench to provide more offense from the reserve corps. A big concern has been the struggles of senior guard Clive Bentick, who was just 3 for 14 from the field against Fairfield and missed all six of his three-point attempts.
Opponents usually game-plan to stop Fenn. But this year, Bentick (14.3 points, 45.6 percent from three-point range) is also a focal point.
"It's been an adjustment for Clive," MacDonald said. "He had good shots against Fairfield. In overtime, maybe he was trying to do a little too much but that can happen. . . . He has to help the other guys when his shot is not falling. I want him to play well when he's not shooting well."
The Bulls shot the lights out Saturday, built an 18-point lead in the first half and it still wasn't enough to produce a win even though Jason Robinson's three-pointer with four seconds left gave them a one-point edge.
"We really wanted to get a three and go for the win right there," Witherspoon said. "I gave them a lot of things to digest on that possession and they got the job done. We just didn't defend well enough on (Akron's) last possession.
"You take those things and learn from them. I want to see more of that energy that I saw in that game. That's how our team can play."