AMHERST — After commemorating another storybook season by unfurling a championship banner inside Alumni Arena for the third time in four years, the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team quickly discovered that past glory doesn’t account for much when opening a new chapter.
Shooting blanks in its regular season debut under elevated coach Jim Whitesell, UB lost 68-63 against Dartmouth to snap a 26-game home winning streak that would’ve remained tied for the longest in the nation with another victory.
“Very tough loss,” Whitesell said. “We’ve got a lot to learn and a lot to work on.”
The result was alarming for a UB team that retained high expectations despite graduating five seniors and losing coach Nate Oats to Alabama following a 32-win season during which the Bulls were nationally-ranked through the entirety and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. In last year’s meeting, UB beat Dartmouth 110-71.
Dartmouth never trailed and led by as many 17 points in this victory. The Big Green’s deliberate offense disrupted UB’s effort to push the tempo and the Ivy League opponent held up after the Bulls made a late rally.
“We didn’t execute on either side of the ball,” Whitesell said. “And that’s on me.”
UB missed shots from all over the floor, hitting 42% from inside the arc and 29% from long range. More than half of the Bulls attempts (35 of 68) were 3-pointers.
“I thought a lot of times we took guarded 3s and 35 3s I think is too many,” Whitesell said. “We talked about moving the ball and punching and kicking and driving. I just thought we took a lot of really difficult shots and then we got stagnant with the ball.”
UB also didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to shoot with no defense, going 5 for 13 from the free throw line.
“It’s as poorly as we’ve done,” Whitesell said. “We’ve shot free throws well in practice and in the two opportunities we’ve had in the scrimmage and exhibition. Very surprised how poorly we shot tonight.”
Whether it was rust or jitters in the first regular season contest, UB augmented its poor shooting by committing 16 turnovers and recording just 14 assists on 24 field goals.
“That’s a big problem for us,” Whitesell said. “We didn’t pass it enough. We need to go back and retool and go back to some offensive fundamentals.”
Senior point guard Davonta Jordan led UB with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. He scored 10 straight during a 55-second span in the second half, igniting a UB surge that whittled Dartmouth’s 47-30 lead down to one point.
But Jordan also had a team-high six turnovers and went 1 for 6 from the line as the Bulls couldn’t complete the comeback.
Jayvon Graves added 15 points and eight rebounds. Texas Tech transfer Josh Mballa had 10 points and nine rebounds in his UB debut, starting in place of Brock Bertram, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Antwain Johnson also had 10 points.
Chris Knight led Darmouth with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Taurus Samules added 16 points.
UB hosts Division III Nazareth on Monday before playing Ivy League favorite Harvard next Saturday in Toronto.