The point-forward outshined the point guard Tuesday night at Alumni Arena.
The University at Buffalo’s Blake Hamilton, not Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene, was the best player on the Alumni Arena court in the Bulls’ 101-91 victory.
Hamilton, the 6-foot-6 senior from California, scored 27 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had eight assists.
Keene, whose 30 points-per-game scoring average leads the nation, was held to 24 points on just 7 of 21 shooting.
“I feel like I can score with the best of 'em,” Hamilton said. “But every night I don’t have to do that because I have so many other pieces around me. I wasn’t really worried about scoring. I just played my game and I ended up with 27.”
Hamilton was the stat-stuffing power forward for the Bulls last season and capped the campaign by hitting the biggest shot in UB history, the game-winner against Akron in the Mid-American Conference title game.
This year UB has been forced to have Hamilton handle the ball a lot more, due to the transfer of point guard Lamonte Bearden and the fact the two conventional point guards on the roster (Dontay Caruthers and Davonta Jordan) are young.
Hamilton has responded by showing off his remarkable versatility. He ranks seventh in the MAC in scoring at 16.9 ppg, 11th in rebounding at 6.5 a game, and sixth in assists at 4.2 a game.
“He’s our best point guard, he just is,” said UB coach Nate Oats. “He started at the 4 last year for us. But he can make the best reads off ball screens, he can make the reads off drives. Is he a natural 1? No. But he can get the ball in the lane and make plays.”
The Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak and kept themselves in the middle of the pack in the MAC. UB improved to 4-5 in the MAC and 10-12 overall. Central Michigan dropped to 4-5 and 14-8.
Hamilton executed UB’s game plan, which was to push the ball up-court to take advantage of its athleticism edge against the bottom-ranked defensive team in the MAC.
“He’s really good in transition when he can grab the defensive rebound, push it up the floor and find guys,” Oats said.
Hamilton made 10 of 19 shots from the field and got everybody involved (although he did make six turnovers). UB got 19 from guard C.J. Massinburg, 18 from wing Willie Conner, 13 from forward David Kadiri and 11 from forward Nick Perkins.
“Coach Oats has really been on me about making the right plays,” Hamilton said. “That’s what I tried to do tonight, take the right shots. They were going under every screen, so it was hard for me not to take that jumper when they were going under. That got me going in the beginning.”
When the Chippewas kept a guard on him, Hamilton posted up, drew a double-team, then kicked the ball out to the corner to Conner, who hit a wide-open three-pointer.
“He’s just a great talent, and you know that when he’s on how good their team can be,” said Central Michigan coach Keno Davis.
UB’s defense was keyed by Caruthers, who guarded Keene most of the night, and Massinburg, who guarded 20-ppg scorer Braylon Rayson.
Keene, a 5-foot-9 Texas native who transferred to Central Michigan from Youngstown State, was forced to work hard for open shots. He had three assists and seven turnovers. Rayson scored 25 points on 8 of 20 shooting.
“It was a challenge,” Caruthers said. “I figured if I held him under 30 we’d win. That was pretty much my goal.”
“That’s Marcus Keene on an off night,” Davis said. “They did a good job of disrupting him. They made every shot of his contested. His on nights are 40-plus and his off nights are 20-plus.”
Keene picked up two fouls in the first half and finished with four, which may have taken the edge off his aggressiveness.
“I think Buffalo was able to be the more physical team,” Davis said. “They made that run in the second half and were able to impose that physicality on the game.”
It was UB’s ninth win over the Chippewas (14-8, 4-5) in the last 11 meetings.
UB visits Ball State at 9 p.m. Friday. The Bulls lost to Ball State, 92-77, two weeks ago.