Ohio's Strong Opening Half Drops Buffalo
ATHENS, OH - Fueled by a 53-point first half in which it shot almost 65 percent from the floor, the Ohio Bobcats (10-5, 1-0 MAC) beat the Buffalo men's basketball team 86-68 Wednesday in the Mid-American Conference opener. The Bulls (5-10, 0-1 MAC) were unable to slow down the Ohio transition game, leading to 23 fast-break points and 21 points off turnovers. Jarryn Skeete scored a career-high 13 points, joining Javon McCrea as the team's leaders in points for the game.
"The tempo of the game was a huge concern for us going in," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "When the pace of the game got to the point where we were changing ends of the court too quickly, fouls and miscues happen. We got some easy looks at the basket early, the problem with that is when you score that quickly you going to have to come back and play defense."
The game was back and forth in the early going, with the Bobcats taking a 20-12 lead with 12 minutes left to play in the half. Buffalo responded with a 7-0 run thanks to easy baskets by McCrea and Regan, and an NBA-level three pointer from Tony Watson that forced an Ohio timeout. That timeout would prove to be the turning point in the half, as the Bobcats came out of the break and ended the final ten minutes of the half with a 33-12 advantage to claim a 53-31 halftime lead.
Buffalo's 10 first-half turnovers gave the Bobcats the gas to rev up the offensive engine, as Ohio held a 16-2 advantage in fastbreak points in the half and 14 points off of turnovers. Senior Bobcat D.J. Cooper was 6-7 from the field and 4-4 from three to put up 18 points in just 17 minutes of court time in the half. He would play just six minutes in the half, and finished with 21 points and seven assists. He would find a rhythm with post Reggie Keely, who put up equally efficient numbers for the night with 19 points in 23 minutes.
The pace of the game wore on the UB posts, leading to foul troubles for the group over the course of the entire game. Of the 14 fouls called on the Bulls, 11 were committed by the frontcourt. On the flip side, though, the Bulls scored 32 points in the paint and 40 points overall from the quartet of post players. The posts fought through the adversity to grab 17 offensive rebounds for 19 second-chance points.
McCrea had six rebounds and four blocks to go with his 13 points, and Xavier Ford provided terrific energy off the bench. The sophomore had a career high nine rebounds (seven on the offensive glass), and added eight points to give the team a lift when McCrea was saddled with his fourth foul at the 16:44 mark of the second half.
"Xavier is our one post who is built a little bit differently, and has the speed to change ends," Witherspoon said. "Where his problem occured, is now will he have the poise with that to be able to make decisions and bring presence of mind to not be erratic."
Ohio would build its lead at a more modest pace in the second half, taking its largest lead of the game at the 9:03 mark when it led 75-41. Buffalo would muster a strong finish to the game to cut into that lead, though, ending the game with a 27-11 advantage.
UB will now aim to take advantage of its longest home stand of the season coming up, playing three straight home games in the friendly confines of Alumni Arena. The conference's opening week will conclude Saturday as the Bulls host Miami (OH). Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm.