AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Curtis Jones continued his scoring binge with a career-high 32 points Saturday, commanding University at Buffalo’s 83-66 victory against St. Bonaventure.
UB (4-4) won its third win in a row and second in a week against a Western New York opponent following Sunday’s 86-66 defeat of Canisius. The crowd of 4,633 at Alumni Arena was enhanced by a strong showing from Bona backers.
“I loved that atmosphere,” said Bulls big man Jonnivius Smith, who had a couple crowd-pleasing dunks in a 10-point effort.
“We take a lot of pride in playing these games,” UB coach Jim Whitesell said. “It’s kind of like playing a conference game. The intensity, every possession counts, every free throw counts, it’s magnified here.”
St. Bonaventure had won 11 of the past 15 meetings. Ten of those games were decided by six points or fewer, with five coming down to the last possession, including the Bonnies’ buzzer-beating triumph last year in the sold-out Reilly Center.
“These two programs have been awfully good,” Whitesell said. “I’ve been fortunate to be here eight years and the success both of these programs have had, you should have great greats. You should have a great rivalry, and a lot of interest in the area, because it’s really good a basketball.”
Bona (5-3) came to Buffalo on a four-game win streak that included notable rout of Notre Dame at the Gotham City Classic and Wednesday’s home victory against a Middle Tennessee State team predicted to finish near the top of Conference USA.
“We are going to take two steps forward and then going to take a step back at times,” Bona coach Mark Schmidt said about the process of integrating an entirely new roster from the one that started last season ranked in the Top 25 and finished with a run to the NIT semifinals.
“You watched a young team not handle adversity too well,” Schmidt said. “It’s easy to handle at home when you’ve got your crowd. On the road, you hear some boos, and the other team is making shots and you hear some cheers, it’s more difficult.”
Bona lost in overtime at Canisius earlier this season and has not won a game in the Buffalo area since 2017.
Schmidt downplayed the significance of the local rivalries in comparison to conference matchups. “We don’t really look at it that way,” he said. “It’s another game on the schedule. We have to win all 31 games. No game is more important than another.”
Poor shooting from beyond the arc (3 for 15) and the foul line (9 of 19) doomed the Bona. Freshman forward Yann Farell led the Bonnies with 18 points and nine rebounds. Leading scorer on the season Daryl Banks III had 16 points but missed all seven of his attempts from 3-point range.
Jones, a sophomore guard in his first season starting for UB, was efficient in scoring 32 points on 22 shots. He made 5 of 10 from distance and 8 of 12 inside the arc. Jones scored 22 points in each of the past three games and is leading the Bulls averaging 17.3 on the season.
Yazid Powell scored 23 points, all in the second half, for the Bulls. He shot 12 for 12 on free throws, adding eight rebounds and a team-high four assists. Isaiah Adams had 10 points and nine rebounds.
UB’s next game is at home Tuesday against Division III foe St. John Fisher from Rochester, while Bona hosts Cleveland State on Wednesday.
Canisius and Niagara opened Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play with road losses Friday night. The Golden Griffins let the lead slip away late in a 74-70 defeat at Siena, while the Purple Eagles were hardly competitive in a 78-56 loss at Iona that snapped a three-game win streak.
Canisius (2-5) visits Iona (3-2) on Sunday while Niagara (3-3) plays at Siena (5-3).
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.