Bulls Rally to Beat Toledo For Sixth-Straight Win
TOLEDO, OH - Mired by foul troubles in the first half, the University at Buffalo men's basketball team turned to its young sophomores for relief. In the second half, the veterans stepped in to take care of the rest, erasing a 13-point deficit in the second half to beat Toledo, 72-65, at Savage Arena on Saturday night. Titus Robinson sparked the Bulls with 14 points and five rebounds. Buffalo has now won three straight MAC road games for only the second time in program history.
The Buffalo offense was crippled by a slew of offensive fouls in the first eight minutes of the game, including two on Javon McCrea that sent him to the bench with 12:58 remaining. Just three minutes later, the UB frontcourt took another hit to its depth with Robinson picking up his second foul as well with the Rockets building a seven-point lead and ten minutes remaining in the half. Cameron Downing came in and immediately provided a spark, hitting an and-one layup on the team's first possession down the floor and adding another just two possessions later. The team also got a huge lift from fellow sophomore Auraum Nuiriankh, who had a team-high eight points in the first half.
Buffalo trailed by nine at the half, 40-31, thanks in part to a blistering Toledo offense that hit 15 of its 31 shots and six of its ten three point attempts. Standout sophomore guard Rian Pearson was a one-man wrecking machine with 16 first-half points. The Bulls had seven turnovers that led to 14 points for Toledo and got a combined 11 minutes from Robinson and McCrea, but the team had weathered the storm and buckled down in the second half, putting together one of the best halves of the season en route to its biggest halftime comeback of the season.
"In the first half with guys in foul trouble, we had to have guys like Cameron (Downing) come in and be productive, and Xavier Ford gave us energy," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "I think it was a total team effort that got us that result. They're a tough team to beat at home and you can see why"
The Rockets continued to hit shots early in the second half, extending the lead all the way to 13 before Robinson and McCrea were able to hit some shots and begin to chip away at the lead. With 12:57 remaining in the game and the Rocket lead still standing at 12, Robinson went on a tear that saw him score eight points in just over three minutes and got the offense rolling.
"He (Titus) was on the offensive glass, he was on the defensive glass, he was on the floor for loose balls and his energy level was so high that he was just huge," Witherspoon said.
His effort was then matched by McCrea, who hit a lay-in with 7:38 remaining to bring UB within two, 55-53. He then tipped in a Dave Barnett carom to tie the game up at 57-all and then was set up by Tony Watson for another finger-roll layup that gave the team its first lead since the 13:38 mark of the first half, a 59-58 lead with 5:06 left to go.
Watson in his own right was a key cog in the comeback, scoring seven points in the second half on four crucial free throws, and a three pointer with the Bulls down 60-59 at the 4:13 mark. Despite an off night from senior sharpshooter Zach Filzen, Watson and Dave Barnett provided all the long-range offense UB would need. With 1:42 remaing in the game and Toledo again back on top, Barnett lived up to his "Big Shot" moniker with a dagger three pointer to give the team a lead it would not relinquish, adding three free throws from Jarod Oldham and Watson and a thunderous dunk from Robinson to break the Rocket's press and seal a 72-65 comeback.
It was a fitting end to a busy day for senior forward Robinson, who poured in 12 points in the second half alone. McCrea also put up a dozen to go with eight rebounds and two blocks in the final 20 minutes. Watson's seven second-half points and Barnett's five also contributed to a critical road win. Buffalo outscored Toledo 24-4 in the paint, 16-3 in second chance points and 24-8 off the bench in the second half alone. The defense stifled the Rockets offense that had been clicking so well in the first half, holding them to just seven field goals and 25.9 percent from the floor over the final 20.
Now 14-6 overall and 7-2 in the conference, the team will continue to aim for road dominance as it travels to Central Michigan for a Wednesday evening game in Mount Pleasant. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm.