Skeete’s hot hand helps Bulls improve to 2-0 in MAC play
Men’s basketball team pulls away late against Eagles
Published: Saturday, January 11, 2014
Updated: Saturday, January 11, 2014 17:01
After cruising to a 21-point victory in its conference opener against Northern Illinois, the men’s basketball team faced a tougher challenge against Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon. The game featured nine ties and seven lead changes before Buffalo finally pulled away.
The Bulls (8-4, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) defeated Eastern Michigan (9-6, 1-1 MAC), 76-66 in front of an Alumni Arena crowd of 2,616. The win moves the Bulls to 2-0 in MAC play for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
“It was a great test for our team today,” said head coach Bobby Hurley. “I thought we did a great job defensively and creating turnovers. We executed and made plays down the stretch to put ourselves in position to win.”
With less than five minutes left in the game and the score tied at 56, sophomore guard Jarryn Skeete hit a three-point shot to give the Bulls a 59-56 lead. The shot sparked the Bulls’ 20-10 run to finish the game that proved to be the difference.
Despite coming off the bench, Skeete had a season-high 19 points and led the Bulls in scoring. He went 4 for 7 from three-point range.
“I know how talented and how capable he is so I’m not surprised by his scoring numbers,” Hurley said. “Tonight he was feeling it and had a really good rhythm to his shot and hit big shots for us.”
Eastern Michigan has three starters over 6-foot-6, and the Bulls struggled with the Eagles’ size and were forced to take outside shots, attempting 15 three-pointers in the first half alone. The Eagles outscored the Bulls 18-10 in the paint in the first half.
Despite the size disadvantage, the Bulls’ guards played well enough to keep the game close and they went into the half tied at 30.
Buffalo improved after halftime, scoring 22 points in the paint in the second half. Hurley credited freshman guard Shannon Evans for opening things up for the Bulls.
“We were passing the ball and not really being aggressive,” Evans said. “At halftime, coach said to attack and be aggressive. I tried to get to the rim and create for others.”
Senior forward Javon McCrea – who was coming off a career high eight blocks against Northern Illinois – struggled in the first half and went 0 for 4 shooting. When 7-footer Da’Shonte Riley got into foul trouble in the second half, however, it opened up the lane for McCrea. He recorded all of his 10 points in the second half and five of his 11 rebounds.
“He’s unselfish,” Hurley said. “He had a good assist total. He rebounded and filled out the stat sheet in a lot of ways.”
Junior forward Will Regan and senior guard Jared Oldham also scored in double figures for the Bulls. Both players finished with 11 points and four rebounds. Oldham also added seven assists.
Junior forward Xavier Ford got his second start of the season and scored eight points and added six rebounds.
The win was the Bulls’ fourth straight and they remain undefeated at Alumni Arena with a record of 7-0.
The Bulls will continue their conference schedule when they travel to Toledo (12-2, 0-1 MAC) on Wednesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.