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Rebounds and big run produce UB victory

When all else fails -- hit the boards.

It looked like the University at Buffalo men's basketball team was again going to spend most of Saturday afternoon in a bit of a funk.

But using a 21-0 run and holding a 25-8 edge in rebounds in the second half, the Bulls pulled out a 69-64 win over Siena in front of 2,542 at Alumni Arena.

It was another poor start for the Bulls (8-5) who on their first seven possessions of the game turned the ball over four times, had one offensive foul and missed two layups.

The Saints, meanwhile, hit seven of their first 10 shots and hit 59 percent from the field in the first half. They led by as many as 15 in the opening half and took a 37-29 halftime lead.

"I was concerned because we had so many easy looks and appeared to be surprised to get them," UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "We got the ball to spots we wanted to and appeared to be surprised by it and missed too many layups. . . . Our missing easy baskets in the first half of this game seemed to energize our opponents rather than take energy from us."

The Bulls channeled their energy in the second half to focus on the task of rebounding.

Defensively, they switched to a zone and were able to get out and contest Siena's solid shooting guards while keeping good spacing to prevent any effective penetration.

Then they just got after the ball.

Buffalo trailed by 12, 47-35, with 15:55 left when it started its run. Fueled by impressive rebounding, including six offensive boards during that stretch, the Bulls rattled off 21 unanswered points, taking a 56-47 lead when Calvin Betts hit a three-pointer on an inbounds play with 9:14 left.

Betts earned four points that trip, hitting the first end of a one-and-one free throw and then hustling to rebound his own miss before Siena knocked the ball out of bounds.

The freshman had his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.

"I would say it's an effort thing," Betts said of the art of rebounding. "We talked about it at halftime that we needed to put forth enough effort in the second half. Everyone was crashing the glass and that's what's going to get it done."

"We've been trying to emphasize [rebounding] the whole year," Witherspoon said. "We went pretty hard in the second half and I hope our guys are learning that it really makes a difference. . . . Sometimes when you do the [rebounding] drill in practice, they're not realizing how important it is and how much it demoralizes your opponent when you get second and third shots."

While Betts led all rebounders with 11, the entire Buffalo lineup played well on the glass. Parnell Smith had nine to go along with his 18 points while Eric Moore added six rebounds and 18 points, thanks in large part to crashing the boards from the wing.

"[Buffalo] is a very good rebounding team," Siena coach Fran McCaffery said. "In the second half, they played with a sense of urgency. I thought we positioned ourselves well out of the zone if the first half but in the second half we were watching too much. . . . When the run comes and you're a little fatigued, those are the times when you stop putting a body on somebody."

The rebounding statistic, as UB held a 40-23 advantage in the game, became especially important since the Bulls committed 24 turnovers.

Senior center Yassin Idbihi was in uniform, but did not play. He is still recovering from an elbow injury and has missed the last three games.

e-mail: amoritz@buffnews.com

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