Jeenathan Williams scored a career-high 26 points to lead the University at Buffalo to a 76-73 victory over Ohio University Tuesday at Alumni Arena.
Williams, the highly touted sophomore from Rochester, scored 24 of his points in the second half.
UB improved to 11-6 overall and 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
Ohio fell to 9-8 and 1-3.
UB survived an off night from its best player. Junior guard Jayvon Graves managed just seven points.
But the Bulls got 18 from senior guard Antwain Johnson and 12 from senior guard Davonta Jordan. Ohio got 28 from forward Ben Vander Plas and 27 from sophomore guard Jason Preston.
Ohio took a 31-26 lead into intermission.
UB hit just 2 of 11 3-pointers in the first half – and most of them were open shots. The Bulls also made 10 turnovers. UB got only three points from Graves, while Jordan had five turnovers.
Missing: UB was without two frontcourt players. Tra’Von Fagan sat out with a knee injury. LaQuill Hardnett was ill.
Crashing glass: UB ranks third in the nation in offensive rebounding, averaging 14.6 offensive rebounds a game, behind Houston and Portland State. Mballa stands 14th in the nation in offensive boards, at 3.88 a game.
Breakthrough player: Preston, Ohio’s sophomore guard, is a breakout star in the MAC and might be the most improved player in the conference. Preston had only one other scholarship offer, to Longwood, before choosing Ohio. He’s a late bloomer who averaged 2 ppg as a high school senior. He opted to go to prep school for a year. Ohio offered him a scholarship late in the recruiting process in 2018 after the Bobcats lost a guard to transfer. Preston played shooting guard as a freshman last year, averaging 6 ppg.
Fast pace: UB entered the game ranked sixth in the nation in tempo, averaging 75.4 possessions per game. The Bulls’ average possession length of 14.3 seconds is third shortest in the nation, according to the Pomeroy analytics site. Ohio is 195th in the nation, at 68 possessions per game.
New coach: Ohio fired coach Saul Phillips last spring after five seasons on the job and a record of 81-77. Phillips had two 20-win seasons but was hurt by numerous injuries during his tenure, and his teams slipped to 14-17 the past two seasons. In his place is 47-year-old Jeff Boals, who compiled a 55-42 record the past three years as head coach at Stony Brook. Boals served seven years as an assistant at Ohio State under Thad Matta. He went to a Final Four with the Buckeyes in 2012. Before that, Boals was an aide under Keith Dambrot at Akron.
Up next: UB visits Central Michigan at 2 p.m. Saturday. It should be a high-scoring game. Central Michigan stands 11th in the nation in tempo. The Bulls return home on Tuesday to face Western Michigan. Ohio visits Eastern Michigan on Saturday.