By Matt Parrino
Niagara Gazette — The UB men's basketball team was desperate for a win entering Saturday night's game against Bowling Green. The team had yet to win a game in Mid-American Conference play and hadn't won a game against a Division-I opponent since Dec. 8.
Enter freshman point guard Jarryn Skeete, who has been thrust into the starting lineup since Jarod Oldham was injured in December. He scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and had two big assists late in the second half to help lead UB to a 68-65 win over Bowling Green (6-11, 1-3) at Alumni Arena.
Skeete didn't do it alone — junior standout Javon McCrea scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds — but his play, when the Bulls (6-12, 1-3) seemed on the ropes with the Falcons threatening to go up double digits in the second half after UB had already made a run to close an eight-point, first half gap, gave the Bulls the second threat they've been lacking the past month.
Bulls coach Reggie Witherspoon said that Skeete has take advantage of his opportunity and he expects him to continue to improve.
"I said to someone yesterday, he's getting a lot of minutes for a freshman, for anybody," Witherspoon said. "He's getting a lot of minutes and as long as he keeps his attitude at an A-game, he's just going to keep getting better and better. It's a lot of challenges but it's a great opportunity. Tonight he really was resilient."
He scored 11 of his points in the second half and found senior Tony Watson, who drilled a 3-pointer to give the Bulls their first lead since it was 1-0 in the first half at 58-57.
On the next possession, the Bulls ran a play that took 15 seconds off the shot clock. Skeete calmly took the ball near half court and motioned to settle down his teammates. He called McCrea up to the 3-point line from the post, used the screen to get past his defender and pulled up from 15 feet and buried the jumper.
Skeete was confident he'd be able to take and make big shots when the moment arrived.
"I was letting the game come to me and if I got an open shot I was taking them," he said. "I always knew I could hit them, just when the time came I just stepped up and hit them."
The Falcons took back the lead at 61-60, but then McCrea took over. He was his usual self, controlling the boards and making big baskets in the paint all game. Bowling Green had two imposing figures down low in Cameron Black and Richaun Holmes, one of the top shot blockers in the MAC according to Bowling Green coach Louis Orr, but McCrea wouldn't be denied.
He scored six straight points in the final two minutes to secure the win.
"It's tough because (Javon is) a guy that creats a lot of contact," Orr said. "I'm sure he gets fouled too, so the referees, he makes them have to make some calls. He's a tough cover, he's ambidextrous and he creates contact. Hes one of the best players and toughest covers in our league. If you give him an inch he can make it happen. He did that and he made some plays."
The Bulls shot a dismal 35 percent from the field in the first half, and only 25 percent from 3-point range, but were able to reverse their fortunes in the second half. They held Bowling Green to 35 percent shooting in the second half and 17 percent from beyond the arc. The Falcons made six 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and only one in the second half.
Auraum Nuiriankh scored all of his nine points in the second half and was a catalyst in the Bulls' push early in the final half.You can find Tonawanda sports editor Matt Parrino on Twitter @MattParrino.