Season-best scoring output lifts Bulls into first place

McCrea, Oldham, Freelove all score 20 as men’s basketball defeats Akron

By BEN TARHAN
On February 19, 2014

  • Freshman guard Shannon Evans and senior guard Josh Freelove celebrate after a Freelove 3-pointer. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

Defense was hard to find at Alumni Arena on Wednesday night as the men's basketball team took on Akron. Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field and over 40 percent from beyond the three-point line as they combined for 186 points.

The Bulls (15-8, 9-4 Mid-American Conference) got help from their defense and energizing plays on offense when they needed them the most to defeat the Zips (17-9, 9-4 MAC), 96-90, in front of 3,579 at Alumni Arena.

The win puts the Bulls in a first-place tie in the MAC East with Akron.

"I thought it was terrific basketball to watch," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "A really high level college basketball game. Something that everyone should be real positive and excited about seeing."

The Bulls pulled away from the Zips early in the second half on the power of a 12-4 run. The stretch was punctuated by dunks from junior forward Xavier Ford and senior guard Jarod Oldham - the latter of which put Buffalo up by 14. Alumni Arena erupted after both plays.

But Buffalo couldn't put the game away. Senior forward Javon McCrea was called for a technical foul because he threw the ball at Isaiah Johnson after being fouled, which allowed the Zips to make a run. The Bulls led by 11 at the time of the foul, but the Zips went on a 16-7 run following the play, pulling within two with 5:15 left and three with 2:20 left.

McCrea continued his strong performance in conference play, recording 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. McCrea was a force inside all night going up against Akron's Demetrius Treadwell, grabbing rebounds with ease and creating second chances for the Bulls' shooters.

"I think he is passing the ball better," said Akron head coach Keith Dambrot of McCrea. "They're capable of winning the [MAC] tournament because of him."

After struggling from the field during their last game against Ohio, the Bulls started Wednesday's game pounding the ball inside. They scored 54 points in the paint on Wednesday.

They didn't attempt a shot from beyond the arc until 11:26 into the game. Once they did start shooting from long range, they were spot on, hitting four of their six attempts in the first half.

Buffalo shot 63 percent - the fifth-best mark in school history - and 54 percent from beyond the arc.

"When we are playing against zone, we might not have a choice; we might have to shoot more perimeter shots based on how we are being guarded," Hurley said. "But I liked the way our guys attacked the basket today."

In addition to McCrea, the Bulls had three players score in double figures, including two other 20-point performances. Senior guard Josh Freelove scored a game-high 21 points, going 9 for 13 including 3 for 6 from three. Oldham netted 20 points as well and also assisted on four baskets.

Every active player for the Bulls scored at least one basket.

Though Akron outscored Buffalo 20-14 in second-chance points, the Bulls dominated on the glass, grabbing 35 boards to the Zips' 25.

The Bulls now go on the road for rematches against Kent State (15-11, 6-7 MAC) and Ohio (18-8, 8-5 MAC) in the stretch run of the season.

The Bulls' game against the Golden Flashes will tip at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the MAC Center.

 

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