DURHAM, N.C. – The University at Buffalo was able to take some legitimate moral-victory feelings away from its 82-59 loss Saturday to defending national champion Duke University.
• Freshman guard CJ Massinburg scored 17 points and displayed an impressive ability to convert on drives to the basket.
• UB rebounded the ball well and kept the bigger Blue Devils from getting second-chance baskets. The Bulls actually had more offensive rebounds than Duke, 15-11, and lost the rebounding battle overall by only 43-42.
• UB moved the ball around on offense far better than in Wednesday’s loss to St. Bonaventure. The good passing didn’t result in enough baskets, because Duke’s rim protectors altered so many shots. UB hit only 33 percent from the floor. But more of those shots likely would go in against Mid-American Conference competition.
“When we get into MAC play, I think these kind of games make you better,” said UB coach Nate Oats. “I like the fact our guys came in and competed hard for most of the game. … I know we gave up 82, but I felt like we played decent defensively.”
UB trailed the No. 7-ranked team in the nation by 10 at halftime, 34-24. The Bulls were within nine with 15 minutes left and within 12 with 7:30 to play before Duke pulled away for good.
The result wasn’t equal to the moral victory UB earned last year at No. 1-ranked Kentucky. The Bulls led that game in the second half and threw a real scare into the Wildcats.
But this is a lesser UB team with a lot more new pieces. Considering Duke scored a 20-point victory Wednesday over an Indiana team that opened the season ranked No. 15, the final score wasn’t bad.
One of those new UB pieces, Massinburg, is off to a surprisingly good start, averaging 10 points a game. A 6-foot-3 guard from Dallas, he was an under-recruited, late signee in the spring.
Massinburg starred in high school as a shooting guard, but he has proven to be a scorer off the dribble from the point guard position, too. He scored five baskets on hard drives down the lane against Duke’s McDonald’s high school All-America guards.
Massinburg admitted playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the Duke students chanting, hurling insults and bouncing up and down all game, was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I want to thank God for the opportunity to play in Cameron Indoor,” Massinburg said. “It’s really a dream. Coming out of high school last year, I didn’t expect this.
“My thing was I just didn’t want to show any fear,” Massinburg said. “Our coach told us to be fearless, and that’s what I tried to do. I knew Duke was going to be coming for us, but if we came for them first they’d see we wouldn’t be intimidated.”
“They were really good at driving the ball and being aggressive,” said Duke senior Amile Jefferson.
Given Duke’s size advantage, UB could have been dominated on the glass. But Duke held only an 8-6 edge in second-chance points.
“I saw Amile Jefferson pretty much blow the game open against Indiana by destroying Indiana on the glass,” Oats said. “We made a big deal about boxing him out. We’re undersized at the 4 position. … I thought our guys did a pretty good job. Emile only had one offensive rebound. I feel like our guys competed tonight.”
One player UB could not stop was 6-9 freshman Brandon Ingram, the No. 4-ranked high school recruit in the country last spring. Ingram had 23 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He scored outside, inside, on dunks and on spin moves down the lane.
“I’m not an NBA scout but I’ve seen a lot of basketball players in my day and he looks like an NBA player to me,” Oats said. “He’s 6-9 with a wing span that goes forever. He can make threes, put it on the floor, post up. I don’t want to say Kevin Durant. He’s probably not that good. But he’s that prototypical guy that’s 6-9 and can do everything. He’s a tough matchup.”
Ingram plays small forward for the Blue Devils, which means UB was forced to guard him for some stretches with the 6-3 Massinburg or 6-5 Willie Conner.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was gracious afterward.
“They have tough kids with drive,” he said of UB. “They just keep coming at you. They wore us out a little bit. This is our ninth game in 23 days. … We looked a little tired offensively in the first half. We were chaotic. … So we had kind of a workmanlike performance against a really competitive group at the end of nine games.”