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Bulls' offense sputters in a 78-68 loss to Western Michigan

Moss and Evans carry scoring load but not enough as Bulls fall to Broncos

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One game removed from a contest in which the Bulls shot better than 46 percent from the field, the men’s basketball team couldn't find nearly the same success against the defending MAC champions.

The Bulls (10-4, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) fell to the Broncos (10-5, 1-1 MAC), 78-68, Saturday at the University Arena in Read Fieldhouse in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Western Michigan is the defender MAC champions.

Buffalo shot just 33.3 percent (19 of 57) from the field – their worst shooting effort of the season. The long range shot wasn’t connecting either, as team shot 25 percent (4 of 16) from beyond the arc.

Head coach Bobby Hurley attributes the loss to the depth of the Broncos roster, but was conscious of the rough shooting output by his team.

“Western Michigan is a good team, defending champions, with a sizable amount of their core of their team returning, so we knew it would be a challenge,” Hurley said. “They had several days of rest to play us after a tough game against Akron, and they played more physical than us, I thought. We have to regroup from this because right now, it’s hard to look at the box score from this game.”

The Bulls began the game on the wrong side of a 14-4 deficit, missing four of their first five shots. The Bulls finished 8 of 26 shooting in the half, including 1 of 6 from the three-point line.

Buffalo currently ranks fifth in the MAC in assists per game (13.2). But against the Broncos, the Bulls had just three. Evans – who is second in the MAC with 5.4 assists per game – recorded only one assist in the game. The team also compiled 13 turnovers in the loss.

“We really weren’t strong with our decision making out there,” Hurley said. “We left a ton on the table out there, especially in the open court. We dropped the ball and didn’t finish and it was uncharacteristic to me. We got open looks and didn’t convert, so we’ll just have to continue to work on that. We can’t win a game with just three assists.”

Junior guard Jarryn Skeete returned to the court after missing the last four games due to an ankle injury. He finished with four points in 23 minutes played as Hurley returned to his usual eight-man rotation.

But even with the completed rotation, Hurley had issues keeping some of his key players on the court due to foul trouble. Entering the second half, four players had at least two fouls. Senior forward Xavier Ford had three fouls. Senior forward Will Regan fouled out in the second half and finished with one point.

Junior forward Justin Moss finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and converted on 13 of 16 free-throws. He recorded his team-leading eighth double-double of the season. Sophomore guard Shannon Evans finished with 21 points on 8-of-22 shooting. Moss (16.9 points per game) and Evans (15.9) hold the first and second highest average scoring totals in the MAC this season. Moss also leads the MAC in rebounds per game (9.6).

Western Michigan had four starters in double-figures and moved the ball well, finishing with 14 assists. The Bulls allowed Western Michigan to shoot 46.4 percent shooting from the field and grab 14 offensive rebounds.

“We’ve had better balance on offense,” Hurley said. “Four or five guys scoring in double figures pretty regularly for the most part. It’s tough to beat some of the best teams in the conference when you can’t get better balance, more guys playing well. Hopefully, this is just a bad game for a couple guys and we can figure it out.”

The Bulls return home for a conference game against Northern Illinois (7-5, 1-0 MAC) January 14 at Alumni Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

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