Late shot boosts Buffalo
|Photo gallery: Rainbow Classic|
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
Out of sight and out of mind, the Buffalo basketball team is hoping to give its fans a reason to cheer for something other than football this week.
The Bulls defeated Pepperdine, 72-71, in an overtime thriller of the first round of the 45th Annual Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic last night.
A crowd of 757 at the Stan Sheriff Center watched last night's two first-round games.
Andy Robinson hit an off-balance jump shot from 12 feet with 0.8 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Bulls the victory. Buffalo had trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, and six points early in the overtime.
"It means a lot," Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "We had three overtime games last year and didn't win any of them. Everything appeared to be going wrong, and yet our guys hung in there and kept fighting, and I think that's a sign of growth."
The win prevented what would have been a significant upset. Buffalo improved to 6-4; Pepperdine lost its 12th straight game to fall to 1-12.
The Bulls are rated No. 115 among NCAA Division I teams by CBS Sports. The Waves are rated No. 332 out of 343 total teams.
"Nothing against (Pepperdine), but we were thinking from the beginning of the game that we should have been ahead," Buffalo guard Calvin Betts said. "But we knew if we kept fighting it would work out."
Betts had game-highs of 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead Buffalo. Robinson added 12 points off the bench.
Pepperdine took a 71-70 lead with 12 seconds remaining in overtime when Mike Hornbuckle scored on a layup off a nice assist from Rico Tucker.
On Buffalo's ensuing possession, Robinson got the ball in the corner, faked a pass, then drove toward the lane for his winning shot.
"I had a pretty good look at the basket," Robinson said. "I had a really good first step and I knew I beat (the defender), so all I had to do was kind of fade a little bit."
Betts, who was another option on the final play, said: "At first I wanted him to kick it because I was wide open. But great players make shots like that, and Andy's a great player."
Robinson also hit a 3-pointer with 2:23 remaining in regulation to tie the score at 61. Neither team scored after that, forcing the five-minute overtime.
The Bulls will play Colorado in a semifinal game today at 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, it is 34 degrees back in Buffalo, where most of the fans are preparing for the football team's upcoming International Bowl on Saturday in Toronto against Connecticut. Buffalo upset Ball State to win the Mid-American Conference football title.
"Everybody's excited about the football team, including us," Betts said. "But this is a chance for us to make some noise and hopefully get people talking about basketball, too."
Lorne Jackson and Tucker led the Waves with 14 points each. Pepperdine will play Coppin State in a consolation game today at 1:30 p.m.
COLORADO 80, COPPIN STATE 63
Cory Higgins had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Buffaloes in last night's late game.
Higgins had a near-perfect shooting night, going 4 of 5 from the field and 12 of 12 on free throws.
"Any time you can get to the free-throw line, that's easy points, so I just try to use angles and try to initiate contact to get some calls and get to the line," Higgins said.
Colorado had a 36-24 lead at halftime, and Coppin State never got within 10 in the second half.
"A lot of good things — we shot 55 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the 3-point arc, 88 percent from the free-throw line and we out-rebounded someone, so that's a good start," Colorado head coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
Casey Crawford added 12 points, Dwight Thorne II added 11, and Jermyl Jackson-Wilson 10 for Colorado, which won its fourth straight game to improve to 7-3.
Michael Harper scored 11 points to lead Coppin State, which lost its ninth straight game to fall to 1-9. All nine losses have been away from home.
Coppin State guard Tywain McKee was held to nine points, ending a streak of 32 consecutive games with double-digit points. He was averaging 20.6 points per game this season prior to last night.
He was limited to five minutes — and zero points — in the first half due to foul trouble.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.