The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team returned to Alumni Arena with an Associated Press Top 25 ranking for the first time in program history.
Yet there was a catch for the No. 22 Bulls: C.J. Massinburg, UB’s leading scorer, wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday against Dartmouth in the team's 110-71 pasting of the Big Green, and coach Nate Oats said he won't be for up to 14 days with a Grade 1 MCL sprain. That means Massinburg, who averaged 20.3 points in UB's first three games, would miss Saturday's game with Marist and the trip to Northern Ireland for two games Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
But Massinburg’s absence was no cause for concern for the Bulls, who made a resounding return in their first home game since Nov. 6.
Five players scored in double figures for UB. Forward Nick Perkins had a team-high 18 points, guards Jayvon Graves and Davonta Jordan each had 16 points and forward Jeenathan Williams and guard Jeremy Harris each had 11 points.
“We’re deeper with our bigs, but we’re just going to have a little more trickle-down,” Oats said. “We started Jeremy at the 4 (forward) but he’s really a guard, so he was able to play a lot more 2 and 3 tonight, and Jeenathan Williams can play at the 4. He played the majority of his minutes at the wing, so our bigs got a little more time.”
Perkins saw the guard's absence as an opportunity for development.
“It’s rough,” said Perkins, who also had a team-high 10 rebounds. “But I think it’s good for some of our young guys to be able to step up and show what they can do.
“C.J., when he comes back, we know what he can do. But him being out, I think it’s good for Rolando (Segu) and Jeenathan (Williams), to get a little more comfortable with the offense and the defense.”
Dontay Caruthers, a senior who started at guard in place of Massinburg, scored seven points but had eight defensive rebounds and teamed with Perkins to help the Bulls (4-0) establish a physical presence in the paint.
“Without C.J., we plugged Dontay into that same role,” Oats said. “He’s a big, strong, physical guard who plays real tough. He came through with the rebound deal, and he was defensive player of the year in the MAC two years ago.
“With him and Davonta, we’ve really got two of the best defensive guards in the country, and I think he showed that tonight, with everything he did.”
Being nationally ranked in front of a home crowd of 3,573 didn’t faze the Bulls, who took a 15-0 lead in the first 4:40 and didn’t allow Dartmouth its first basket until Ian Sistare (18 points) made a layup 20 seconds later.
“We finally got recognized for the hard work and the blue-collar mentality that we play with, every night,” Jordan said. “With that next to our name, it’s just a number, but then again, it shows that we are actually recognized.”
At one point, the Big Green (3-2) used a 25-13 run to wipe out UB's 15-0 lead, and trailed 28-25 with less than 10 minutes left in the first half. UB opened its lead to 37-29, and at one point kept Dartmouth without a successful shot for nearly four minutes in the first half, en route a 55-39 lead at halftime.
UB stretched its lead to as many as 41 points in the second half, and allowed the Big Green just 11 successful shots. Dartmouth finished 26-for-67 from the floor, while UB was 45 for 76 - the most field goals in a game for the Bulls since Jan. 27, 1976, when the Bulls made 45 against Brockport. UB also had 45 rebounds to Dartmouth’s 34.
“They’re really, really good at the beginning of possessions and they’re solid during possessions because they run their stuff but they’re really good at the end of possessions on the glass,” Dartmouth coach David McLaughlin said. “If we were doing well at the glass, we were suffering in transition, and vice versa.”