Here are the top quotes from post-game interviews after Ohio University whipped the University at Buffalo, 95-74, at Alumni Arena Friday night.
1. Ohio coach Saul Phillips on UB coach Nate Oats. Phillips' wife, Nicole, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May. She was treated and given a clean bill of health in the fall. Of course, Oats' wife, Crystal, is battling lymphoma.
"What Coach Oats is doing in the face of waging an extremely, extremely brave battle with his wife against cancer; man I was there all summer with my wife, and I could barely function. For him to able able to get this group where it is at this stage of the year with the very real issues he’s having to deal with on the other end, I couldn’t have more respect for the guy. I’m legitimately cheering for him."
"I want to be really clear about this: There’s about three times in a season each way that something like this happens where a team just gets rolling and there’s not much that’s going to happen. I don’t think this is any reflection upon the type of team that Buffalo is. They’ve been rocked by some issues."
2. Nate Oats' initial reaction: "That was embarrassing. We didn’t come out ready to play. We’re down some numbers. Guys are a little banged up. Willie was banged up, had an X-ray today but was cleared to play. Blake was a little sick. I thought guys gave in when the going got tough a little bit. It was a character game. We had guys who I thought played hard through the end. One bright spot was CJ. But we also had some guys who showed character the other way too. It’s stuff you gotta get fixed."
(Note: CJ Massinburg scored 36. Blake Hamilton played despite illness. Willie Conner had soreness in his leg earlier in the week. Conner played 30 minutes.)
Oats: "We’re 12 games in, 7-5. Last year we were 6-6 and were on a three-game losing streak at the same stage, and we got ourselves together and won six in a row. We mentioned that to the guys, but they’ve got to make it happen. It’s just not going to happen."
3. The insightful assessment from UB senior guard Jarryn Skeete:
I think the inexperience and the youngness of our team may be getting to us right now in the stretch. It’s snowing a lot. School just started, we’re three weeks back. Classes got going. I just think guys need to figure out that it’s never going to be easy. Just because we were 7-3 teams aren’t going to ever make it easy on us."
"I don’t think our confidence after the last two losses should be down because I don’t think the teams out-skilled us. We got outhustled and we didn’t really guard on defense. You can’t pick on one person or two people. . . . I just think we need to figure out a way to get stops on the defensive end. Our offense isn’t the issue. . . . The consecutive points on defense takes its toll. We need to respond because the season’s not over. We can still win the next six. We can still be top four for the tournament."
4. UB lost 71-69 to Toledo Tuesday on a buzzer-beater. Oats: "That loss to Toledo I think put us in a little bit of a tailspin. I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was until tonight’s game. Had we been able to win that game, not give it away at the end, I think our mindset would have been a little better coming out tonight. . . . Two out of the last three games at home now we haven’t come out of the gate well. We’ve got to fix that.
5. Massinburg's 36 was a career high. He had 28 in the second half. He hit 11 of 18 shots. Oats: "The one bright spot is we had some guys give effort even though we were down big late. I thought CJ laid it all on the line for us. I think he’s shown he’s been a pretty high character kid for us. The game gets tough like that and he just kept playing hard."
Said Massinburg: "Something as we have to do as a family and an organization, we have to find out how we’re going to come out ready to play. We had a stretch of four games where we came out really, really good, like against Northern Illinois. But the last two games we’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to do. I feel like it’s our starts. We can’t start out like that and expect to win. Being down 15-3 and come back, that’s pretty hard to do."
6. Lamonte Bearden sat out his second game of a team suspension and was missed. Oats on Ohio preventing UB dribble-drives: "First off, if you can get some stops and get some buckets in transition. We’re pretty good in transition. When you’re never getting the stop, you’re never getting the ball out in transition. That’s problem No. 1. Then when you do get the ball in the half court and they’re collapsing all the drives, which teams are going to do because we’ve got some guys who can penetrate, the bottom line is you’ve got to make some shots. Teams can take away the lane on you. They can’t take away the lane and take away the three. We started the game 1 for 9 from three. You can’t go 1 for 9 from three."
"Not having Bearden obviously hurts the flow of everything. Even when they collapse, he’s able to get in there anyways, and he can find the right guys. That’s the other thing. Skeete’s done a pretty good job without him. CJ’s played well. But CJ’s a big-time scorer in high school. He’s still used to scoring more than setting guys up. So I think we miss Lamonte a little bit more than we maybe thought we were going to since we had gone 2-0 without him early in the season."
7. Time to dig in. More Oats: "We just talked to the guys. They’ve got to look themselves in the mirror. Are you going to be a high-character guy or a low-character guy? You gonna come out and fight for the team? I think we have some good high-character kids, they can bounce back and really get it rolling. Or are you going to throw the towel in. We’ve got some guys on the fence with some of that right now. Hopefully they all buy in."
8. Phillips on the MAC: "Buffalo’s good. There is a big, big bunch of teams that we’re still right in the middle of. Buffalo’s right in the middle of. It’s going to be a wacky, wacky, wacky tournament this year. Akron has separated themselves a little bit. Other than that it’s kind of up for grabs."