If Vadim Fedotov plays the way he has the last two games, the University at Buffalo may have found a much needed inside presence.
Fedotov scored a career-high 17 points and added nine rebounds for the Bulls (3-3), who defeated rival Canisius for the fourth consecutive time, 68-59, in front of 2,652 Tuesday night in Alumni Arena.
The Golden Griffins, playing the fourth of a five-game stretch away from home, fell to 0-5 on the season. Canisius has opened the season 0-5 three times previously, most recently in 2005-06.
The Bulls, coming off back-to-back losses to Niagara and Pittsburgh, led by 15 points less than four minutes into the second half after a three-pointer by Andy Robinson. But Canisius cut the lead to 44-37 with 13:44 remaining. Freshman Elton Frazier had the biggest highlight during the run with a thunderous tip dunk off a missed three-pointer by Willie Hassell.
But the Griffs couldn't get any closer the rest of the game. After UB's Byron Mulkey added a free throw, Sean Smiley hit a three-pointer off a pass from Mulkey and the lead was back up to 10 at 47-37. The Bulls never trailed by fewer than eight points for the remainder of the contest.
The game lacked the drama of previous matchups -- the last eight games were decided by a total of 26 points -- but after the 92-45 debacle at Pitt, UB merely needed a win.
"Our ball movement was better and we had a lot less hesitation," UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "Because we were less hesitant on offense, it helped our defense a lot."
Canisius shot just 4 of 21 from three-point range and 23 of 69 from the floor. Hassell and sophomore point guard Frank Turner were a combined 7 of 32 from the field and Hassell, a junior college transfer from Portageville, Mo., was 2 of 13 from three-point range.
"There's a fine line for someone like Willie," said Canisius second-year coach Tom Parrotta. "He's struggled early to find his niche and he was coming on as of late. . . . We struggled to get some easy baskets."
Fedotov can relate. He may never be known as a good low-post scorer, although the 6-foot-9, 260-pound junior from Munich, Germany, had 13 points and four rebounds in the Bulls' blowout loss at Pitt.
"It's the most important thing that we won the game," said Fedotov, who is averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 rebounds a game. "I could care less if I play well or not. The result makes it more enjoyable if we win and I have a productive game."
Still, the Bulls need Fedotov to perform well to have any chance of winning in the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls haven't received much inside so far from sophomore Kambi Laleye, and junior college transfer Brian Addison didn't play at all Tuesday.
"We get on Vadim every day in practice about drop stepping and falling into the basket," said UB junior swingman Greg Gamble, who made all four of his shots and finished with eight points. "[Tuesday] I got right on him. 'When we give you the ball, I want you to fall into the basket.' "
Hassell led Canisius with 12 points, while Turner added 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Greg Logins came off the bench with eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Griffs, who played most of the game without guard Jovan Robinson, who injured his ankle early in the first half and played only nine minutes.
The Bulls take on Tulane on Thursday in Alumni, while the Golden Griffins play rival St. Bonaventure on Saturday in the Reilly Center.
Prior to the game both teams met at halfcourt and held a banner reading "Get Well Brian," for former Canisius guard Brian Dux, who was seriously injured in a car accident Nov. 10 in Guildford, England.