Zipped then Zapped
Bulls watch first-half lead, upset bid disappear in conference loss
Tony Watson (above) and the Bulls nearly upset conference rival Akron. The Bulls watched a 20-point first-half lead evaporate as they fell 68-64 on Saturday night. Spectrum File Photo
The men's basketball team was on the brink of spoiling a 10-game winning streak and undefeated home record as Buffalo traveled to Akron on Saturday night, but an ice-cold second half halted the Bulls' magic.
The Bulls (7-13, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) watched a 20-point lead evaporate in a hurry as they suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Zips (15-4, 6-0 MAC), 68-64.
Buffalo jumped out to an early 30-10 lead with nine minutes to go in the first half, sinking their first nine shots from the field. However, the scorching offense cooled off as the Zips went on a 21-7 run to end the first half and cut the lead to 37-31.
Nick Harney drained a three with 13 minutes left to ignite a 19-0 run to claim the Akron lead for good.
Despite the disappointing loss, freshman point guard Jarryn Skeete continued to penetrate the defenses of conference opponents and finished the game with a career-high 19 points and five assists.
"[Skeete] is growing," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "He's getting there. You're going to have your ups and downs. There are some things that we wanted to run that we can't really run because we have so many new guys. Guys like [senior guard Tony Watson] are looking around saying 'let's run this' or 'let's run that,' and I said '[there] is some stuff they don't know.'"
Sophomore Will Regan knocked down a three to open up the second half as Buffalo jumpstarted a 14-6 run to regain momentum, but Akron would not back down. The Zips' late switch to zone defense left the Bulls looking puzzled.
"[Akron] has not played this much zone and we have a lot of work to do with our approach and attack to the zone," Witherspoon said. "We are just starting to get a little better with it man to man ... We have to get better."
Akron shot 16.7 percent from three-point range in the first half but shot 54.5 percent in the second. At one point in the second half, the Zips held the Bulls scoreless for six minutes.
Junior forward Javon McCrea, who scored 10 points and grabbed seven boards, was held to 3-for-11 shooting from the field.
"The first half, I told our guys 'we are going to get shots, we have a pretty good idea of where the shots are going to come from based on how they played us [in the past],'" Witherspoon said. "We thought it would leave Javon open around the basket. Somehow we only got eight free throws and two of them were on [technical fouls]."
Watson also contributed to the Bulls' offense and went 5 of 8 from the field and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc. Watson, who scored 15 points, was just two points shy of his career-high 17 points, which he scored Nov. 12 at Florida State.
"The hope is that is that it ignites a determination in us ... that we did enough good things to win it and didn't," Witherspoon said. "You don't want your guys walking out of here happy. But the anger they are bound to feel, we want that to build a determination that this is something that we can do, that we will do."
The Bulls will look to sure up both sides of the ball as they continue their quest in conference play as they host Central Michigan (9-10, 2-4 MAC) on Wednesday at Alumni Arena. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.
Email: sports @ubspectrum.com
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