In position for top-two seed, Bulls close out regular season

By TOM DINKI
On March 2, 2014

  • The Bulls will play at Akron on Tuesday night for a rematch of their 96-90 victory over the Zips Feb. 19 at Alumni Arena. Freshman guard Shannon Evans had 13 points and four assists in that game. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

The men's basketball team enters the final week of the regular season in prime position to enter the Mid-American Conference Tournament as a top-two seed, which would automatically place them in the semifinal round - two wins from the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulls (18-8, 12-4 MAC) play at Akron (18-11, 10-6 MAC) Tuesday night and close out their regular season Saturday against Bowling Green (12-17, 6-10) at Alumni Arena.

With a win over Akron Tuesday night, Buffalo would clinch the MAC East regular-season title, but this will not guarantee them a top-two seeding. The Bulls will have to beat out at least one MAC West foe, either Toledo (24-5, 12-4 MAC) or Western Michigan (19-9, 12-4 MAC), for a top-two seed. The Bulls fell to Toledo earlier this season but defeated the Broncos.

The Rockets defeated Western Michigan Saturday night, 96-85. Toledo is currently the No. 1 seed, while Buffalo is second in the standings and Western Michigan is No. 3. With their 78-55 win over Miami Ohio (11-6, 9-7 MAC) Saturday, the Bulls automatically advanced to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, for the quarterfinals.

The Bulls defeated Akron in their previous matchup Feb. 19, 96-90, at Alumni Arena. It was the Bulls' highest scoring output of the season. The loss was the first of a three-game losing streak for Akron, though the Zips broke the streak by defeating Bowling Green, 57-47, on Saturday.

"We attacked them well," said Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley. "They really looked to get in the passing lanes. We were able to drive the ball effectively to the rim. [We had] some good balance on offense. Some guys stepped up and played well."

The Zips have just two players who score over nine points a game, senior forwards Demetrius Treadwell and Quincy Diggs. Treadwell is averaging 14.7 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and Diggs is averaging 12 points per game and shooting 33.6 percent from beyond the arc. The duo combined for 35 points in their last meeting with the Bulls.

Buffalo had three 20-point scorers in seniors Javon McCrea, Jarod Oldham and Josh Freelove in that matchup. With the Bulls clinching at least a spot in the MAC quarterfinals, Saturday's game against Bowling Green will be the Bulls' last home game and it marks the seniors' final game in Alumni Arena. UB will honor McCrea, Oldham, Freelove and fellow seniors Auraum Nuiriankh and Corey Raley-Ross before the game for Senior Day.

"It's bittersweet that it's ending," Hurley said. "We're having a great year and that means we have a chance to play in the postseason, so it's exciting. At the same time, as coaches, we're going to miss [the seniors]. It's going to be a tough day for us emotionally."

Buffalo lost its first game with the Falcons Feb. 2, 74-68, in Bowling Green, Ohio. The Bulls led by six with 4:26 remaining but allowed Bowling Green to go on a 12-0 run that proved to be the difference. Hurley received a technical foul with 2:28 left in the game and the Bulls leading by two. The foul allowed Bowling Green to make three free throws and take a lead they held onto for the rest of the game.

"Sometimes you win games in the last couple minutes; sometimes you lose games in the last couple minutes," Hurley said. "I think we've experienced it all this year. We've been super competitive in a lot of close games and our team is finding a win to win close games here down the stretch."

After starting off 3-2 in conference play, Bowling Green has gone 3-8 in its last 11 games. The Falcons are second in the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 63.5 points per game, though they are ranked second-worst in the conference in scoring offense, with an average of 63.1 points per game. Buffalo scores nearly 10 points more per game, averaging 73.2 points.

Junior forward Richaun Holmes leads the Falcons in scoring with 13.5 points per game. He also is grabbing 7.7 rebounds per game. Holmes ranks second in the MAC in blocks per game at 2.8. Sophomore guard Spencer Parker ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.9 points per game and scored 23 against the Bulls Feb. 2.

The Falcons rank last in the MAC in three-point shots made per game at 3.9. They have just two players - junior guards Jehvon Clarke and Anthony Henderson - who are a threat beyond the arc. Clarke and Henderson have combined for 71 percent of the Falcons' made three-pointers.

The Bulls face Akron at 7 p.m. Tuesday and tipoff for Saturday's game against Bowling Green is set for 2:30 p.m. at Alumni Arena.

 

email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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