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Buffalo loses to No. 6 Wisconsin

Bulls give up 42 second-half points after holding lead at halftime

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For the second time this year, the men’s basketball team held a halftime lead over a nationally ranked opponent.

And for the second time, the Bulls (7-3) were unable to come away with a victory.

The Bulls lost, 68-56, to No. 6 Wisconsin (12-1) after leading 27-26 at halftime at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin Sunday. The Bulls led 34-32 with 17:28 remaining before the Badgers pulled away on a 14-0 run and did not give up the lead for the rest of the game. Buffalo led No. 1 Kentucky 38-33 at halftime on Nov. 16 before eventually losing 71-52.

Despite Sunday’s loss, head coach Bobby Hurley was pleased with his team’s performance.

“I think we’ve demonstrated that we can compete with the best teams in the country for large portions of the game,” Hurley said. “I think that’s something that the NCAA tournament committee looks at. They want to see teams that have a chance to play with and potentially beat some of the best teams in the country.”

The Bulls played admirably on defense, holding the Badgers to their third-lowest point total of the season. Wisconsin’s second and third leading scorers, Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes, went scoreless in the first half. The Badgers’ forwards finished Sunday with 13 and nine points, respectively. Wisconsin shot 42.4 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc.

But Buffalo could not stop All-American candidate Frank Kaminsky. The senior forward scored more than half of the Badgers’ total points in the first half (14 of 26) and finished the game with 25 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

“A lot of people respect how good he is on offense, but he gave us problems at the rim,” Hurley said. “He’s a terrific player.”

Buffalo shot 55 percent from beyond the arc, led by sophomore guard Shannon Evans. He led the team with three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points. Freshman guard Lamonte Bearden scored 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting in his first college game in his home state of Wisconsin.

“It was a great experience,” Bearden said. “The crowd, the fans. I love to hear it. It’s just like being home again.”

Junior forward Justin Moss scored 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and had a team-high 12 rebounds. It was his fourth straight double-double and sixth in 10 games this season.

Junior guard Jarryn Skeete, who is averaging 10.9 points per game this season, did not play Sunday after rolling his ankle during practice Thursday. Hurley said Skeete is day-to-day and that he decided not to play Skeete to ensure he will be ready for Mid-American Conference play beginning on Jan. 7 at Miami Ohio.

The loss of Skeete “hurt the team,” but Bearden said Buffalo’s biggest flaw was its size against one of the biggest lineups in the country.

“You have to be able to finish against those big guys,” Bearden said. “We’re playing 7-footers and it’s hard to finish over guys like that.”

The Badger’s top-3 leading scorers – Kaminsky, Hayes and Dekker – are all at least 6-foot-7.

Sunday’s loss is the Bulls’ first since Dec. 3 against St. Bonaventure. Hurley said he is optimistic the loss can help the team in the latter stages of the season.

“I knew this would be a great experience for our players and a confidence builder if we played well,” Hurley said. “It’s something we can draw upon during the conference tournament when the season progresses.”

The Bulls travel to Binghamton to take on the Bearcats (1-13) Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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