Bulls Douse Flames in UCF Holiday Classic
ORLANDO, FL – All-Tournament selection Rodney Pierce
scored a career-high 31 points to lead Buffalo to an 81-64 win over
Liberty in the consolation game of the UCF Holiday Classic.
Pierce led a trio of double figure scorers by hitting 11-of-22 shots and matched his career-high with five three-point field goals. He became the first Bull since Calvin Cage, who had 30 points in the 2006 Mid-American Conference Tournament versus Ball State, to score 30 or more points in a game. For his 57 points in the tournament, Pierce was named to the All-Tournament team.
Pierce has now scored 86 points (28.6 ppg) in his last three outings and has gone over 20 points in five straight games, the first Bull since Cage pulled off the feat in 2005-06. The Buffalo native had plenty of help, as fellow seniors Calvin Betts and John Boyer each had 15 points. Betts added eight rebounds, while Boyer had nine assists, including eight in the first half alone.
"I thought our movement against their matchup zone was very good and we shot the ball extremely well at certain times in the game," said Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "Defensively we got after them in our man-to-man and got them out of their offensive rhythm from about the midway point of the first half. It was a good response from the guys after a tough loss yesterday."
The Bulls trailed 10-6 in the early going, but six straight points, the last four by Pierce gave Buffalo its first lead at 12-10 with 15:26 remaining.
A three-point field goal by Betts at the 11:11 mark set off a barrage of trifectas for the Bulls. Buffalo would score seven of their last 10 field goals from beyond the arc in the half to open up a 43-30 halftime lead.
Buffalo led 25-22 with 8:01 left in the half before a 10-0 run opened the game up for the Bulls. Pierce had five points, while Boyer had a trey and Dave Barnett a layup off of a steal. The Bulls would continue to lead by double digits the rest of the half, opening up a 16-point lead (43-27) on Pierce's second three of the half.
The Bulls (7-4) never let the Flames gain any momentum in the second half, keeping a double-digit lead throughout. Leading 48-36 with 16:50 remaining, Buffalo went on a 12-4 run to open up their biggest lead of the game at 60-40 with 13:20 remaining on a three-pointer by Boyer.
The Bulls held tight to the lead by converting on 19-of-22 free throws in the game and connected on a season-high 12 three-point field goals in the contest. UB hosts MAC rival Miami (OH) on Saturday, January 9 in their next outing.