Watson, McCrea lead Bulls to much-needed win over Toledo
Hump day wound up being a career night for two members of the men's basketball team. Senior guard Tony Watson and junior forward Javon McCrea posted career highs in scoring and rebounds, respectively, as Watson finished the night with 24 points and McCrea gabbed 16 rebounds.
The Bulls (10-15, 5-6 Mid-American Conference) played host to MAC-leading scorer Rian Pearson (18.2 points per game) and Toledo (11-11, 7-4 MAC) on Wednesday night. Buffalo brought the Rockets back down to earth with solid defense, winning 75-60. The squad is now tied for third with Kent State and Bowling Green in the MAC East, trailing Ohio and Akron.
Pearson finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
"We wanted to make [Pearson's] touches tough," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "We didn't want him to touch the ball easily and comfortably. We wanted to make him really work to catch the basketball so that he didn't just catch it on his spot in rhythm. Once we did that I thought our team defense was pretty good."
The first 16 minutes of the game were tight, but the Bulls rallied on a late first-half run led by McCrea. He had completed a double-double by the end of the first half, posting 10 points and 10 rebounds, marking his eighth double-double of the season.
"I just wanted to stay aggressive," McCrea said. "I knew if I stayed strong on the rebounds, then the offense would come to me."
The Bulls took a 10-point lead into halftime, leading 35-25, after Toledo shot 27.8 percent in the half.
"I thought, overall, it was one of our best team defensive efforts," Witherspoon said. "I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them out of the paint. They are a good team and I thought we kept them from getting easy baskets for the most part."
Buffalo didn't look back in the second half, coasting past the Rockets behind a 5-of-6 shooting performance from 3-point land by Watson (who finished 6 for 9 from downtown).
"[Coach] always tells us: 'keep shooting, stay confident, trust yourself, trust your teammates and trust your training,'" Watson said. "If we keep our heads on straight and we shoot when we're supposed to, we'll find our rhythm."
Watson added five rebounds and two assists. As a team, the Bulls shot 50 percent from three-point land in the game.
McCrea's 16 boards were the most by a Buffalo player since Calvin Betts pulled down 18 in the 2009 MAC Tournament. McCrea also had 14 points on the evening.
"He was in traffic a couple times and I think those traffic rebounds, when everybody's going for them, kind of separates the good rebounders from the great rebounders," Witherspoon said.
Freshman Jarryn Skeete got into the mix for the Bulls as well, adding 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.
"I'm just trying to do whatever I need to do to win," Skeete said. "I don't really see myself as a freshman anymore. I'm just trying to play."
Five Bulls logged over 30 minutes as Buffalo did not need to use its bench much to get past the Rockets. Only one player (junior forward Cameron Downing, five points) scored off the bench for Buffalo.
"We're having five guys play a whole lot of minutes," Witherspoon said. "I think the biggest thing is now having our guys move the ball and trust that if it finds rhythm, we'll find open shots. If we move it, the opening will find itself. And that takes trust."
The Bulls will travel to Miami Ohio (8-15, 3-8 MAC) on Saturday to take on the Redhawks. Tip is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
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