Freelove's big game lifts Bulls over Miami Ohio

By BEN TARHAN
On March 1, 2014

  • Senior guard Josh Freelove had a career-high 24 points against Miami Ohio, with 21 coming in the second half. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum
  • Freelove hit 6 of his 10 three-point attempts. Why'd he transfer to UB? Coach Bobby Hurley, he said. I think that he can get the most out of my game. He was going to allow me to play ball with no strings holding me back. A lot of what I did today was because he saw that I was having a decent half and him and my teammates just found me and coach drew up plays to get me open. That's something I didn't have a lot at the other places. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum
  • Senior guard Jarod Oldham filled the stat sheet Saturday, finishing with 11 points, five assists and four steals. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum
  • Senior forward Javon McCrea (12) had another impressive game, amassing 13 points and 10 rebounds. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

The momentum of Saturday's men's basketball game changed in one possession.

The Bulls were in the middle of an offensive dry spell late in the first half. After Buffalo led 16-9, Miami Ohio went on an 18-4 run to take a 27-20 lead with 4:01 left in the first half. The Bulls scored just four points in an eight-minute stretch, and head coach Bobby Hurley's frustration boiled over, resulting in a technical foul.

Just when it seemed like it could be long day at Alumni Arena, Buffalo's defense stepped up.

The Bulls forced the RedHawks to put up a three-point shot as the shot clock expired and grabbed the rebound - it was more than a stop; it was a game-changing sequence. Then the offense woke up and went on an 8-0 run to take a 28-27 lead.

The Bulls (18-8, 12-4 Mid-American Conference) defeated the RedHawks (11-16, 7-9 MAC), 78-55, in front of 4,402 fans at Alumni Arena. Buffalo outscored Miami Ohio 50-25 in the final 20 minutes.

"The first half was rough," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "Their pressure affected us some; they're a unique team that way with their smaller lineup and trapping. We did take advantage of some offensive rebounds, but we weren't able to penalize them with the smaller lineup and get the ball inside in the first half."

The Bulls trailed 30-28 at the half, and for the first three minutes of the second half, there wasn't much scoring. Miami Ohio held a 35-34 lead with 17:15 remaining.

Then Buffalo went off. The Bulls captured a 36-35 lead and never trailed again.

After shooting 40 percent from the field in the first half and hitting just 10 field goals, the Bulls shot 68 percent from the field in the second half and hit seven threes.

"We never answered any run they were able to make," said Miami Ohio head coach John Cooper. "[Senior guard Josh] Freelove made some tough, tough threes and they were able to get some balls into the paint and score that way also."

Freelove's hot hand led the Bulls to an offensive outburst in the second half. After scoring just three points in the first half and shooting 1 for 4, Freelove scored 21 points in the second half and missed just one shot. He finished with a game-high - and career-high - 24 points.

Senior forward Javon McCrea finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds while senior guard Jarod Oldham finished with 11 points, five assists and four steals.

Cooper acknowledged Buffalo's senior trio's leadership and talent while Hurley bemoaned their impending graduation.

"It's great to coach these guys," Hurley said. "I'm going to miss them. I can't believe it's almost over, it's sad in a way. Jarod and Javon and Josh are three great kids."

The Bulls assisted on 19 of their 27 baskets, with freshman guard Shannon Evans leading Buffalo with eight assists.

With the win, Buffalo clinches at least a share of the MAC East regular season title. UB controls its own destiny for MAC Tournament seeding. The Bulls are in position to earn a top-two seed. With Western Michigan (19-8, 12-3 MAC) and Toledo (23-5, 11-4 MAC) playing on Saturday night, the winner will be in first place, Buffalo in second and the loser in third.

The Bulls have clinched a top-four seed in the tournament, meaning they have automatically advanced to play at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

The Bulls will travel to Akron Tuesday night for a rematch of Feb. 19's matchup at Alumni Arena, where the Bulls prevailed 96-90.

Tip is set for 7 p.m.   

 


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