Reggie Witherspoon already had enough to worry about with his University at Buffalo team playing its first game following a nine-day layoff. He didn't plan on playing pesky Liberty without senior Yassin Idbihi.
Idbihi, who started 102 consecutive games, missed Monday's 72-66 win in front of 1,982 at Alumni Arena because of a bursa sac injury to his right elbow. Idbihi suffered the injury during practice Saturday and missed practice the next day when his elbow swelled to the size of a softball. He had fluid drained from the elbow on Monday, and missed the morning shootaround to rest the elbow, which was wrapped in ice.
Idbihi warmed up briefly prior to tip-off in hopes of playing and went into the locker room for treatment about 20 minutes before game time. When he returned about two minutes before tip-off, Idbihi could barely take off his warm-up jersey because he couldn't extend his arm. He was scratched from the lineup and replaced by 6-foot-9, 260-pound sophomore Vadim Fedotov.
It is unclear how Idbihi suffered the injury or if he'll be available for Thursday's game against Delaware State.
"He's day-to-day," Witherspoon said. "I don't know if he'll be able to practice [today] but I doubt it. He's going to ice it all night, try and keep it elevated and hopefully it will completely drain out and the swelling will go down."
Idbihi's absence didn't affect Liberty's strategy. "When 260 [pounds] replaces 260," said coach Randy Dunton, "it's still 260."
But take away Idbihi's 14.7 points and 9.0 boards, both team-highs, and the Bulls are largely untested along the baseline after senior Parnell Smith. The Bulls (7-4) didn't miss Idbihi on the glass -- they manhandled the Flames (6-3), 52-31 -- but they missed his scoring presence inside and the frontline rotation was affected.
Seldom-seen Bulls like Kambi Laleye, Andrew Atman, Christian Schmidt and Max Boudreau all received ample playing time, but it was the play of Fedotov and sophomore Greg Gamble that helped make up for the loss of Idbihi.
Gamble (Niagara Falls) tied his career best with 15 points and inhaled a personal-high 15 rebounds in 37 minutes, while Fedotov finished with a career-high 10 boards. Gamble's total was a season high for the Bulls.
"Whatever way the ball goes, I just try and chase it down," Gamble said. "I credit my rebounding to Yassin, Parnell and Vadim because they're in there battling."