Men’s basketball stuns Buffalo, 68-63, in season-opener road win
Ian Sistare, picture here last season, recorded a career-high 13 rebounds in the Big Green’s season opener against Buffalo Saturday.
Breaking a 32-year drought of season-opener road wins and ending an opponent’s 26-game home win streak is one way to start the season. With its first season-opening road win in more than three decades, the Big Green men’s basketball team came out on top against the University of Buffalo on Friday, 68-63. While a 17-point lead fell to one in the second half, the Big Green kept its composure to hold the advantage against the Bulls.
Last season’s matchup between the Big Green and the Bulls ended in a 110-71 blowout in favor of the Bulls. Buffalo went on to advance to the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament. The Bulls’ success last season did not deter the Big Green, which shot 27-for-59 overall to break Buffalo’s home win streak — the second-longest streak in the country.
“Nobody thought we would win, except for the guys in our circle and on our coaching staff,” said guard Taurus Samuels ’22. “Going in, we were locked in and we were ready. Especially against a team like Buffalo, and especially going on last year losing the way we did, to come back this year and to get a win is just special.”
Defense from both teams proved dominant early as neither team got on the board until the third minute. Guard Trevon Ary-Turner ’22 made a strong debut after sitting out last year as a transfer from Weber State University, scoring the first points of the season on a three-point play with a layup and ensuing free throw. Samuels extended the lead to 5-0 with a jumper before the Bulls were able to score. The Big Green found its highest lead of the first half with 5:25 left, doubling Buffalo up 28-14 after Samuels’ own three-point play. However, the 14-point advantage was cut in half by the break.
Reinvigorated after halftime, the Big Green came out storming with a 12-2 run to produce its largest gap of the night with a 17-point lead. Scoring came from five different players to put the score at 47-30, starting with wing Aaryn Rai ’21 from beyond the arc and rounded out by another three-point play from Ian Sistare ’20.
Buffalo quickly retaliated with 12 unanswered points before a Rai layup ended Dartmouth’s scoring drought. With 6:03 left to play, a single point separated the Bulls and the Big Green. Rai and forward Chris Knight ’21 each tacked on buckets in the paint to extend the score to 60-55. However, with 1:39 left in the game, the Big Green again found itself up by just one. This time, Samuels stepped up with six consecutive points, grabbing rebounds and earning fouls to shoot — and score — from the line.
“Instead of breaking down defensively or forgetting plays, we all stayed together and stayed in the groove,” Samuels said. “That’s just a big improvement from last year; I think our composure was really high and our focus was really high as well.”
As the team’s leading returning scorer, Knight recorded 18 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth career double-double. Samuels followed closely behind with 16 points, and Sistare set a career-high with 13 rebounds in the opening game.
The Big Green will look to continue its early momentum during its home opener against Florida Gulf Coast University at Leede Arena on Monday night. After finishing 11-19 last year with 11 games lost by five or fewer points, the team’s opening victory sets a higher expectation moving forward.
“A lot of games we’ve been in have been really tight, and it was just a really good feeling to finally come away with a win,” Knight said. “[Now the] goal is to go and play and to make it to the Ivy League tournament.”