UB Bulls defeat Ohio 93-66, set up crucial finale against Bowling Green
Buffalo can now guarantee at least a double-bye with win Friday, still in play for triple-bye
The men’s basketball team’s final five games of the regular season include four games against four of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference East. The other game was Tuesday’s matchup against the worst team in the MAC East – Ohio (9-19, 4-13 MAC).
Buffalo lost to Ohio 63-61 on a last-second layup off of a near full court pass on Jan. 24.
The Bulls (20-9, 11-6 MAC) didn’t seem to take Ohio lightly Tuesday night, as it had one of its best performances of the season.
The Bulls defeated the Bobcats 93-66 on Tuesday evening at Alumni Arena in front of an announced crowd of 3,596, marking the team’s season-high fifth straight win. The team also registered its highest scoring output of the season. If the Bulls win against Bowling Green (19-9, 11-6) on Friday, they will clinch at least a share of the MAC East.
In Buffalo’s 27-point win over the Bobcats Tuesday, the Bulls shot 49.3 percent from the field. Head coach Bobby Hurley said the game was very “free-flowing” and he didn’t have call many plays.
“We have to appreciate [the win] and enjoy it tonight,” Hurley said. “It’s hard to win games at this level. But it’s over after tonight and we have a big game on Friday and it will be harder than it was tonight.”
A key aspect to the Bulls’ blowout victory was the team’s aggressive defense throughout the game. Many times during the night, Ohio players were greeted with tight defense from the Bulls within seconds of getting the ball.
Junior forward Raheem Johnson received a technical foul and was ejected from the game in the first half after getting in a shoving match with an Ohio player. Johnson will not be suspended for Friday’s game.
The Bobcats turned the ball over 16 times during the course of the game. At one point during the second half, Ohio turned the ball over twice in less than ten seconds. Three of Ohio’s starters had three or more turnovers.
The Bulls also took advantage of loose balls to score points in transition. In one play, Evans brought the ball up on a fast break and passed it backwards between his legs to find senior forward Xavier Ford who dunked over an Ohio player in the process.
“We got a steal and an open court and we always preach, ‘when you have an open court, have fun,’” Evans said. “I feel like I’m like a wizard in the open court. You don’t know where the ball’s going to come from.”
Evans finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added a career-high 11 assists.
Junior forward Rodell Wigginton added a career-high 20 points, beating his previous record of 15, set against No. 1 Kentucky earlier in the season.
“I feel it’s great. Coach always emphasizes that any given night anyone can go out there and give their best performance,” Wigginton said. “Tonight was my night. Everybody helped contribute.”
Junior forward Justin Moss had a career-high 17 rebounds. He grabbed nine boards in the first 12 minutes of play. He added a team-leading 22 points in the victory.
In addition to their lock-up defense, the Bulls hit some big three-pointers to rack up the scoring against the Bobcats, shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range.
Evans and junior guard and Jarryn Skeete both hit three shots from beyond the arc. After a fast break in transition, Skeete pulled up for three while still running in transition and hit the circus-type shot, erupting the Alumni Arena crowd.
The Bulls have one game remaining in the regular season before the MAC Tournament. If Buffalo wins its last game against Bowling Green, it will clinch at least a share the MAC East and clinch at least a double-bye in the tournament. Buffalo is still in play for a No. 2 seed and triple buy to the semifinals.
“We all see the MAC championship right there,” Evans said. “We all want it. It’s not just one person who wants it. It’s not the starting five, [it’s] even the guys on the bench. We all want that ring on our finger at the end of the year.”
Hurley is excited for the last home game of the season on Friday.
“I think the students will show up on Friday night and make it a really energetic situation, Hurley said. “Everything is on the line. It’s a one game deal. We’ll get the support to energize our team the way we need to.”
Friday’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Alumni Arena.
James Battle is the assistant sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org