Niagara Gazette — AMHERST — Blame the Princeton offense for the Los Angelas Lakers' early season struggles. But it was the Princeton defense that doomed the University at Buffalo men's basketball team in Saturday's season opener.
The Bulls shot 35 percent and turned the ball over on nearly a third of their possessions in a 57-53 loss to Princeton in front of 4,450 fans at Alumni Arena.
"Because people talk about the Princeton offense so much, the most underrated part of what they do is defend," UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said.
UB didn't score for the first 7:52 of the game and went without a field goal for a five-minute stretch in the second half while the Tigers went on a pivotal 12-2 run.
"They executed and we turned it over a few times," said forward Javon McCrea, who led the Bulls with 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. "I don't think we deserved to win the game."
Still, UB had a chance to pull out the win. Tony Watson sank a straightaway 3-pointer to cut Princeton's lead to 54-52 with 1:27 left and McCrea, after blocking a shot at the rim, drew a foul on the other end and went to the line with 41 seconds remaining on the clock. After making the first free throw, McCrea missed his chance to tie the game.
Will Barrett, who led the Tiers with 20 points and nine rebounds, made a 3 with 8.8 seconds left to seal the win.
The Bulls went with a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game to try and thwart Princeton's precision offense. It worked early, as the Tigers shot 1 for 13 from beyond the arc and 30 percent overall in the first half. But they hit five 3-pointers in the second half, including a 30-footer at the end of the shot clock from Clay Wilson that Witherspoon said he will "see over and over again in my sleep," and finished the game with 24 points in the paint. The Tigers also had 17 assists and only 10 turnovers, compared to UB's eight-to-18 ratio.