University at Buffalo, meet Nick Moore. The introduction seems necessary because the Bulls sure didn't get very acquainted with the Toledo guard Monday night.
Moore scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Rockets to 78-66 Mid-American Conference victory over the Bulls before 1,086 at Alumni Arena.
Toledo needed every point Moore could provide. The Rockets (17-9, 9-6) were without starting point guard Terry Reynolds, who didn't make the trip because of a sprained foot.
Reynolds, arguably the top freshman in the MAC this season, is Toledo's second-leading scorer (12.4 points per game) -- including 36 in the season-opener against Auburn -- and averages a team-high 4.9 assists per game.
But Moore made up for Reynolds' absence by hitting 7 of 11 shots, including 5 of 8 from three-point range.
"Coach (Stan Joplin) said we needed to make up for a little bit of what we would be losing," said Moore, who entered the game averaging 9.5 points per contest. "Terry brings some points to the table, so I had some open looks and I knocked them down and I was able to provide more offense than I usually do."
UB's defensive focus was on All-MAC forward Greg Stempin, one of the league's most dominant big men. But it was clear the Bulls should have paid more attention to Moore.
In Toledo's 17 wins, Moore has made 46 of 88 (52.2 percent) from three-point land and 12 of 47 (25.5) in the losses. In MAC play, he's 30 of 53 (56.6 percent) beyond the arc in victory and 5 of 29 in defeat.
"He played a great game," UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said of Moore. "He was so composed, yet when he saw an opening, he took it. For him to get 21 points on 11 shot attempts is impressive. We didn't want Stempin to come in and be the guy that beat us, so we tried to arrange things so he wouldn't. Moore saw the opening and took advantage of it."
Stempin struggled a bit offensively, but still managed to collect 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists while playing 39 minutes with a sinus infection. Guard Rory Jones, who started in Reynolds' place, added 10 points.
Guard Louis Campbell led UB (3-20, 1-13) with 19 points. Forwards Robert Brown and Jason Robinson added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Toledo was supposed to contend for the MAC championship this season, but has suffered through some inconsistency. While the Rockets beat four teams that made last year's NCAA tournament, they were blistered at St. Bonaventure (84-67).
Given his team's up-and-down season, Joplin was very wary of UB.
"A lot of teams have come here and struggled," he said. "It's tough to win on the road. Kent didn't win by very much here. Buffalo's a little inconsistent and they've lost a lot of close ball games. We just didn't want them to get that second win against us."
The Bulls were within striking distance throughout game, but they never could put together a significant run. Whenever they got close, they would commit some type of blunder at the offensive or defensive end.
Toledo did a good job of penetrating to break down UB's defense, which led to easy baskets. The Rockets also burned the Bulls numerous times in transition.
Toledo shot 53.2 percent from the field primarily because 16 of its 25 field goals were either layups or dunks. Even when the inside was closed off, someone was open to bury a jump shot.
"We had some mental breakdowns that left them with open shots," Witherspoon said. "They did a good job of recognizing openings and we didn't do a good job mentality. That and the turnovers that we made were the difference in the game. Although they had just as many turnovers as we did (18), I think a lot of ours were unforced."
Despite making just six field goals in the first half, UB trailed by just three and had the ball with two minutes left before the break. But the Bulls committed three quick turnovers that allowed Toledo to take a 35-24 lead into the locker room.
"We had so many situations in the first half where we do everything right until it's time to put the ball in the basket," Witherspoon said. "They got the rebound, and boom, a pass and score. That's really frustrating, and I think it saps a team of its energy. All of a sudden, they feel good about themselves when we had a chance to put them in a hole."
A three-pointer by Campbell cut the Rockets' lead to 40-36 early in the second half. But Moore scored 11 of Toledo's 13 points during the opening seven minutes of the second stanza to push the lead to 48-36. UB never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
"It was one of those games where we could have won if you made enough plays," Campbell said. "It's late in the season and a lot of people are worn down, but we should be able to do enough to step it up and make something happen. We've been working at it, but I think we need to work at it even more."
The Bulls visit Ohio University on Wednesday.