"UB Bulls suffer first home loss of season, fall to Toledo"
Rockets shoot 12 of 14 from beyond the arc in 92-88 Buffalo defeat
With two seconds left in Tuesday's game, freshman guard Lamonte Bearden heaved the ball at the basket from behind the half court line in a desperation shot. The shot beat the buzzer and went in.
But instead of celebrating the half-court heave, the Buffalo men’s basketball team solemnly walked to the locker room as the Toledo bench rejoiced.
It was too little, too late.
The Bulls (15-8, 6-5 Mid-American Conference) were defeated by Toledo (16-8, 8-3 MAC) 92-88 on Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,417 at Alumni Arena. The loss snaps Buffalo’s 11-game home winning streak that extended back to last season. The loss also pushed the Bulls to fourth place in the MAC East and two games behind conference leaders Bowling Green (16-6, 8-3 MAC) and Akron (17-7, 8-3 MAC).
“It was a really high-level game with two very good teams,” said head coach Bobby Hurley. “They won 27 games last year and they’re hitting their stride right now. They made all the plays they needed to make down the stretch,”
The buzzer-beater from Bearden at the end of the game was one of five three-pointers the Bulls sank all night, as the team shot 25 percent from beyond the arc. Junior guard Jarryn Skeete led the team with three 3-pointers, all of which were made in the first half. He finished with 13 points.
The Rockets faired much better from three-point range.
Toledo shot 12 of 14 from the perimeter, including a perfect 4 of 4 from three in the first half alone. Toledo guards Jonathan Williams and Julius Brown combined for 8 of 9 from beyond the arc. Brown ended the night with 25 points and five assists, contributing heavily to the Rockets’ win.
“They were very efficient,” Hurley said. “You don’t see too many teams shoot that type of percentage from three. I thought we had our chances. We had our open ones that didn’t go down.”
The Bulls trailed 41-33 at the end of the first half after shooting under 45 percent from the field. The team was also outrebounded 21-12. When Buffalo entered the locker room, it wasn’t Hurley or any of the coaches who gave the halftime speech. It was Skeete and senior forward Will Regan.
“Skeete and Regan talked to us in the locker room and got us going,” said sophomore guard Shannon Evans. “We had to get going defensively. They were scoring way too easy.”
The Bulls forced five turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Buffalo used the strong defensive display to capitalize on the other end of the floor, opening the second period with a 16-3 run.
The first points of the second half came off of a steal from Evans, who fed the ball to Bearden in transition for the layup on the opposite end. The Bulls had their largest lead of the game with 14:45 left in the game when they lead 49-44.
The Rockets then went on a 6-0 run to take a 50-49 lead. But that was the final substantial run for either team, as Buffalo and Toledo stayed within six points of each other until the final seconds.
With 32 seconds left in the game and Buffalo trailing by six, Evans hit a clutch 3-pointer to bring the Buffalo deficit within three. But the Rockets hit all six of their free throws in the last 23 seconds to secure the close victory. Toledo ended the game hitting 20 of their last 21 shots.
Junior forward Justin Moss lead the team with a career-high 33 points on 14-of-23 shooting and added 10 rebounds. His career-high in scoring comes less than one month after setting a previous career-high of 31 points against Miami Ohio on Jan. 17. It was his 17th game with double-digit points this season and his first double-double since Jan. 27 against Western Michigan.
Moss scored 23 points in the second half, many coming from close range.
“In the first half, I settled too much on my jumper,” Moss said. “In the second half, I went to the rack a little bit more and it paid off.”
Senior forward Xavier Ford finished with four points and added a rebound in the loss. He also added four personal fouls, which limited his playing time to just 22 minutes.
Tuesday’s loss marks the team’s second straight loss and first home loss on the season, despite scoring the second-highest point total of the season. Nonetheless, Evans remained confident on the teams’ position regarding the MAC Tournament.
“I know we’re going through a hard time right now,” Evans said. “But I promise you, come MAC tournament time, we’re going to do our thing,”
The Bulls’ next game will be at Alumni Arena against Central Michigan (11-10, 6-4 MAC) on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.