UB Bulls fall 75-74 to Central Michigan for third consecutive loss
Xavier Ford misses jumper in final seconds of the game
With the score tied at 74, Buffalo men’s basketball team freshman guard Lamonte Bearden fouled Central Michigan guard Chris Fowler to send him to the charity stripe with eight seconds left in the game. Fowler converted the first free throw to elevate the score 75-74, but missed his second free throw.
With eight seconds remaining in the game, the Bulls had an opportunity to end a two-game losing streak and win the game with with a field goal. A runner from senior forward Xavier Ford at the free-throw line was short and hit the front of the rim.
The Bulls (15-9, 6-6 Mid-American Conference) were inches away from victory as the final buzzer sounded.
Buffalo was handed their third straight conference loss by Central Michigan (18-5, 8-4 MAC) Saturday afternoon at Alumni Arena in front of an announced crowd of 3,284. The game was Buffalo’s second straight home loss after starting 8-0 at Alumni Arena to begin the season. The Bulls now sit fourth in the MAC East standings.
“We just lost. There’s no way to describe it. We didn’t execute and lost the game,” Ford said. “I didn’t realize how much time was on the clock. I was expecting to get the rebound but I got the ball unexpectedly.”
Head coach Bobby Hurley said the Bulls did not create a set play on the final play of the game. He said the idea was simply to get in the ball into Bearden’s hands because he is good off the dribble. Bearden ran the ball to the top of key and then handed it off to Ford who then missed the final shot.
After taking a 45-32 into the half, Buffalo gave up a 16-4 run in the first six minutes of the second half for Central Michigan to pull within one. The Chippewas scored on seven of their first 10 possessions of the half, including two three-pointers from guard Josh Kozinski. He finished with a game-high five three-pointers.
But Buffalo went on a 6-0 run in the next minute and a half, capped off by a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Shannon Evans. Evans ended the game with 10 points and three assists.
The Bulls and the Chippewas went back and forth for the remainder of the second half. The game was tied at 74 with 38 seconds left after junior guard Jarryn Skeete hit a three-pointer and junior forward Justin Moss made a layup on back-to-back Buffalo possessions.
The Bulls shot a paltry 6 of 22 from beyond the arc. Skeete was responsible for half of the team’s three pointers, going 3 of 6 over the course of the afternoon.
Junior forward Rodell Wigginton started over Bearden in the rotation. He ended with six points and four rebounds. Hurley said he liked Wigginton’s intensity during practice leading up to the game and slotted him into the starting lineup for the crucial conference matchup.
Moss, the MAC scoring and rebounding leader, finished with 13 points and four rebounds, most of which came in the second half. Moss played only eight minutes in the first half due to early foul trouble, and took only six field goals on the afternoon.
“Some players, regardless of what their numbers are indicating over the year, just don’t have their best sometimes,” Hurley said. “[Moss] didn’t have his best today. But he had two early fouls with 8 minutes left in the first half and had to sit that whole period. That didn’t help.”
Despite Moss’ lackluster rebounding display, Ford picked up the slack down low. He had 13 rebounds for the Bulls. He also added 12 points in a double-double effort. Regardless of his overall production, after the game Ford cared more about the show he did not make.
Nonetheless, Hurley lauded Ford for his efficient play this season – not the final shot of the game.
“I can live and die with Xavier taking that final shot. I trust that he gives everything he has,” Hurley said. “He’s done that the whole year. He had a lot of offensive put-backs that put us in position to win. He’s been doing that all season.”
The Bulls will look to rebound on Feb. 18 when they take on Eastern Michigan (16-9, 5-7 MAC) in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.