With MAC Tournament seeding on the line, UB Bulls fall to Miami Ohio with poor shooting performance
All the Buffalo men’s basketball team needed was a victory Tuesday night to clinch at least a No. 4 seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
All it left with was a losing streak and an angry head coach.
Head coach Nate Oats couldn’t hide his frustration after the Bulls (16-14, 9-8 MAC) lost their second consecutive game – a 67-59 loss to Miami Ohio (12-18, 6-11 MAC) on Senior Night in Alumni Arena. Buffalo now holds the No. 6 seed in the MAC with four teams ahead of them tied with the same conference record (10-7).
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Oats said. “We’re going to need leaders to step up and lead better practices. Guys are just not taking it as seriously as we should.”
The Bulls’ offense was frenetic as it moved up and down the floor and pushed the ball from side to side on the perimeter and attacked Miami Ohio’s interior defense. After a quick 9-0 lead, the RedHawks called a timeout and the game appeared to be in Buffalo’s hands.
But after the timeout, that Buffalo team disappeared.
The Bulls would score just 20 points in the final 15:45 minutes of the first half, heading into halftime shooting just 35 percent. The RedHawks adjusted and forced the Bulls to play a slower game, where every possession mattered.
Overall, Buffalo shot just 22 of 62 from the field, including 10 of 31 from three-point range. The Bulls also only went 5 of 12 from the free throw line.
Oats emphasized the need for better practices, while also saying the Bulls need to play their game by pushing the ball up the floor.
“We got guys that don’t want to go hard,” Oats said. “We got guys who get defensive rebounds and want to walk it up the floor instead of pushing it up the floor. We’re best when we’re getting stops and get up the floor. They want to get the ball and back it out, for what, I don’t know. We didn’t do a good job … we need to have a better practice.”
In the second half, Buffalo’s offense continued to struggle, but the defense was exploited.
Miami Ohio, after shooting just 34 percent from the field in the first half, exploded in the second half, hitting 51 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point range.
Junior wing Blake Hamilton led the Bulls by finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds, both team-highs.
Senior Jarryn Skeete finished with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in his final game at Alumni Arena. Senior guard/forward Rodell Wigginton finished the game scoreless on seven attempts from the field. Both Wigginton and Skeete were honored before the game with commemorative jerseys on their senior night.
Junior wing Willie Conner finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three blocks. Sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden finished with nine points and seven of the team’s 13 assists on the night.
“We’re turning the wrong way,” Oats said. “We’ve lost two in a row, we have one game to get it fixed. We’re not playing well right now. We’re not playing well lately. We’ve gotten on top of teams early and haven’t closed out late. We got what we deserve, when you have bad practices like the one we had, you deserve what we got tonight.”
Tuesday’s game was merely a footnote to a bigger cause as True Blue, administrators and students who attended the game mourned the death of football player Solomon Jackson. He passed away at Buffalo General Medical Center on Monday evening following a medical emergency during a conditioning session on Feb. 22.
A moment of silence was held for Jackson before the game as students and fans held up signs with Jackson’s number 41 on it as tribute.
UB Athletics campaigned for an attendance of 6,000 people during the week leading up to the game, but Tuesday’s game only had an announced attendance of 4,798.
The Bulls travel to face Bowling Green (14-16, 5-12 MAC) to close out the regular season on Friday. The Bulls defeated the Falcons 88-74 on Feb. 20. Oats called the Falcons a “tough team” because of their recent play and mentioned that both teams could see each other again in the first round of the MAC Tournament.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.