Akron Rallies to Beat Buffalo, 68-64
AKRON, OH – The University at Buffalo men's basketball nearly pulled off a huge conference road win at first-place Akron, losing to the host Zips, 68-64, on Saturday night. Akron entered the game on a 10-game winning streak and an undefeated mark at home. The four-point margin matched the closest a team had come to beating the Zips at home this season.
The Bulls came out of the gates on fire, making their first nine shots, including four three-pointers. Tony Watson, who had been struggling from distance in recent games, looked like his old self, making his first three three-pointers. A Javon McCrea rebound and putback put Buffalo ahead, 30-10, and quieted the 5,403 in attendance.
Akron (15-4, 6-0 MAC) chipped away at the UB lead for the remainder of the half and managed to cut Buffalo's advantage to 37-31 at halftime.
Buffalo (7-13, 2-4 MAC) opened the second half on a 13-3 run, capped by a Cameron Downing two-handed slam in which he was fouled. His free throw gave the Bulls a 49-34 lead with 15:03 left. Watson made a pair of free throws to give UB a 55-42 lead with 11:37 remaining. However, that is when Akron made its run.
The Zips showed why there are one of the best teams in the MAC as they mounted a 19-0 scoring run and quickly turned a 13-point deficit into a 61-55 lead with 5:31 left. The Bulls could have mailed it in at that point, but kept fighting. Trailing, 63-59, with 2:52 left, Skeete nailed a three-pointer and was fouled. He was unable to convert the free throw, but it cut the Akron lead to one.
Buffalo had a chance to tie the game late in regulation, trailing by two with the ball and less than 30 seconds on the clock. However, McCrea, while absorbing a lot of contact, missed a shot in the paint that would have tied the game. The Zips made their free throws down the stretch to win the game.
Skeete added five assists, three steals and had only one turnover – a great effort by a freshman point guard in a very hostile environment. He played a season-high 39 minutes.
Downing had seven points in just 10 minutes. Will Regan finished with eight points, including a pair of three-pointers.
McCrea and Auraum Nuiriankh shared the team high with seven rebounds, apiece. McCrea added three blocked shots, but shot just 3-of-11 from the field.
"The hope is that this game ignites a determination in us. We did enough good things to win, but didn't," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "You don't want your guys walking out of here happy. But the anger they are bound to feel, we want that to build a determination that this is something that we can do, that we will do."
Buffalo will return home to host Central Michigan on Wednesday night.