Buffalo’s massive rally falls short, 0-2 in MAC play
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It had all the makings of the infamous Matt Stainbrook game from last year.
The men's basketball team finally took the slimmest of leads off an incredible run, and after what was a questionable call to many fans in the stands, an opposing player had a chance to take the lead at the line, with the faithful Alumni Arena crowd screaming at the top of its lungs.
But unlike that game from last year, in which the former Western Michigan forward was unable to hit the clinching free throws, the confident guard nailed both shot and preserved the victory.
After an impressive 24-2 run to take a one-point lead with under a minute left in the contest, the Bulls (5-11, 0-2 Mid American Conference) weren't able to finish the job, as Miami's (6-8, 1-1 MAC) Allen Roberts sunk two critical free throws to give the RedHawks a 58-57 victory at Alumni Arena Saturday night.
Unlike last year, the junior guard relished the opportunity to put the final nail in the coffin for Buffalo.
"I'm a make the free throws," Roberts said confidently when asked what was going through his mind as he went to the charity stripe.
The game wasn't this close throughout. Buffalo struggled all game against the Miami offense, as they shot over 50 percent in the first 30 minutes, en route to a 54-33 lead, with 10:30 left in the contest.
"We just didn't confront our opponent until there was about 10 minutes to go in the game," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "I thought we had good energy after that."
They did rally. It started with a 3-point shot in the corner by freshman guard Jarryn Skeete, which was the first basket of the contest by a guard for the Bulls. Junior forwards Javon McCrea and Cameron Downing then took over.
McCrea led Buffalo scorers in points and rebounds - with 19 and 11, respectively - as he was able to bully the smaller RedHawks players all game. Downing came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of his 14 total points and adding four rebounds.
"I thought Cameron Downing was unbelievable in the second half," said RedHawks head coach John Cooper. "He gave them an incredible boost. We were just trying to survive. It was the last rounds of the fight, and we were trying to get through and keep leading in the scorecard."
McCrea and Downing, along with Skeete, contributed every point in an impressive 19-0 run that cut the RedHawks 21 point lead to just two. Roberts then hit four crucial free throws to hold off the Bulls. But they still had one shot left.
With four seconds left, junior guard Auraum Nuiriankh was unable to inbound the ball from a tough angle on the baseline, and Miami's Geovonie McKnight was able to take the ball and elude the Buffalo defenders as time expired.
Despite the run, it was a lack of getting that consistent effort that left the Bulls without their first MAC win.
"It was just finishing plays," McCrea said after he was asked about how the game got away from the Bulls late. "I feel like there were a couple of close calls and there was one time that we had a rebound that just went out of bounds. We grab that ball, get fouled, the game is over. I just think we need to finish plays."
For the RedHawks, Roberts put the team on his back, as the junior guard led Miami in scoring with 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the field. They were able to pull out this victory despite committing 20 turnovers, and not scoring a single bucket in the last 10:20 of the contest.
"We couldn't buy a basket," Roberts said. "But, we played hard, and fought through adversity. We knew that it wasn't going be that easy to beat Buffalo on the road."
Despite big games from McCrea and Downing, the guards struggled all game to get good looks at the basket, as they shot a combined 3-for-22 from the field. The Bulls as a team shot 37 percent from the field, including 2-19 from beyond the arc.
The Bulls will continue their three-game home stand and look for its first victory in the MAC, with a tough midweek matchup against Kent State (10-6, 1-1 MAC) Wednesday. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.
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