Seniors McCrea, Oldham lead Bulls to 10th straight home victory
Buffalo now 10-0 at home following win over Ball State
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 23:02
In a season of change for the men’s basketball team under first-year head coach Bobby Hurley, it was two of the team’s most tenured players who led the Bulls to their 10th consecutive home win on Wednesday night.
Behind seniors Javon McCrea and Jarod Oldham, the Bulls (12-7, 6-3 Mid-American Conference) defeated Ball State (4-16, 1-8 MAC), 69-48, Wednesday night at Alumni Arena in front of an estimated crowd of 2,558.
McCrea scored 19 points, making him the third UB player to score at least 18,000 career points. McCrea also had 14 rebounds and three blocks. Oldham scored a season-high 17 points and added five assists.
“[McCrea and Oldham] have been the perfect seniors for a group of players, just their leadership and their commitment to winning,” Hurley said. “You come in the gym and you’re excited to be able to coach them. I’m just going to be sad when they leave. It’s been a great experience to work with them.”
McCrea needed 18 points coming into the game to break into 18,000 for his career. He now has 18,001. Hurley joked after the game he was jealous McCrea scored more points in his college career than Hurley did. McCrea said he is focused on this season and has not had time to reflect on his individual success.
“I’m living in the moment so I don’t really think about it as much,” McCrea said. “I just try to stay as consistent as I can and that’s helped me a lot.”
Oldham has not been surprised by McCrea’s success at UB.
“I had a feeling that was going to happen early,” Oldham said. “When we came in as freshmen and he was doing his thing, I knew he had a chance to do that.”
Oldham started the game’s scoring off with a great hustle play, stealing an inbounds pass and laying it up after keeping the ball away from two Ball State players while being fouled.
The Bulls struggled to get their offense rolling as they shot just 31 percent and went 3 for 12 from beyond the arc in the first half.
After starting out the game 0 for 7 from deep, the Bulls found some success shooting near the end of the half. They made three of their final five 3-pointers, and nine of their final 14 points of the half came from 3-point range to help them go into intermission with a 26-19 advantage.
Both teams were better offensively in the second half. Ball State came out of halftime more efficient, however, as the Cardinals cut the Bulls' lead to two in part by making two early 3-point shots.
Buffalo then outscored the Cardinals 37-19 the rest of the way, largely due to free-throw shooting.
The Bulls finished the game with a 35-12 free-throw advantage, including going 21 of 24 in the second half with a sequence of four foul shots essentially putting the game away.
The Bulls were leading, 52-39, with less than seven minutes remaining when senior guard Josh Freelove stole a Ball State pass and was fouled. Freelove and Oldham made two of the Bulls’ four straight foul shots – following a technical foul – and extended the lead to 17. Ball State did not come within 16 for the rest of the game.
“It was nice that we had a free throw differential, which we have not had this year,” Hurley said. “It shows how aggressive we were driving and our commitment to get the ball inside.”
After holding Ball State guard Zavier Turner scoreless in their first matchup on Jan. 23, the Bulls limited the Cardinals’ leading scorer to just 11 points.
Junior forward Will Regan scored 13 points and added six rebounds. Freshman guard Shannon Evans scored eight points and had three assists.
Though the Bulls are 10-0 at home this season, they are just 2-7 on the road. Hurley understands his team will have to learn to win away from Alumni Arena to be a contender in the MAC Tournament.
“I think we’re capable of going on the road and playing well,” Hurley said. “We just need to learn how close games out on the road a little better.”
The Bulls will be on the road Saturday against Central Michigan (7-13, 0-8 MAC). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.