Bulls end No. 24 Akron’s winning streak at 19 games, defeat first-ever ranked opponent
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 14:03
The last time the men’s basketball team played Akron, it had a chance to end the Zips’ 10-game winning streak. Instead, the Bulls watched their 20-point lead evaporate, leading to a devastating loss on the road.
This time, the young Buffalo basketball team looked mature and composed in earning UB’s first-ever win against a nationally ranked opponent.
The Bulls (12-17, 7-7 Mid-American Conference) took down No. 24 Akron (23-5, 13-1 MAC) 81-67 Saturday night in Alumni Arena, ending Akron’s 19-game winning streak – the longest in college basketball this season. The Zips had not lost since Dec. 15.
Junior forward Javon McCrea scored a game-high 26 points – 18 in the first half – while going 13 of 18 from the field and besting foe Zeke Marshall.
“I didn’t play as well the first time we [played Akron]; I really wanted to come out tonight and be aggressive,” McCrea said. “They won a lot of games on the road and they were ranked. I knew this was going to be a big one.”
McCrea was the cornerstone of the Bulls’ offense, which had four other players finish in double figures. His counterpart, sophomore forward Will Regan, added 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds and amassing a career-high three blocks.
The freshman-and-senior guard duo of Jarryn Skeete and Tony Watson provided strong presence in the backcourt. Skeete and Watson each played a game-high 40 minutes, and they combined for 31 points (Skeete 18, Watson 13).
“I think our guys persevered all year and made a great effort to just take it a day at a time in an attempt to get better every single day,” said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. “I think today, we put together a pretty good 40 minutes.”
The Bulls were able to hold off the Zips despite being outrebounded on the offensive glass, 17-6. Buffalo allowed 46 points in the paint.
After Akron opened up the second half on a 10-6 run, Marshall cooled off. The Bulls held him to 17 points on the night.
“We got beat one-on-one off the dribble and really, most of the time, their guards beat us off the dribble,” said Akron coach Keith Dambrot. “We just had trouble guarding, and the zone wasn’t working for us because we just didn’t have it. So no matter what we played, [it was] one of the first times this year we’ve said: ‘Hey, we just couldn’t play any defense.’”
Akron shot just 38 percent from the field. The Bulls, who were 7 of 14 in the first half from beyond the arc, only attempted three three-point shots in the second half.
Instead, the squad relied on its big men and capitalized on mismatches in the paint.
With 12:23 left in the second half, the Bulls took a 48-46 lead on a jumper from McCrea, which ignited a 14-4 run. Buffalo did not lose the lead for the rest of the game.
“We wanted to keep attacking them inside,” Witherspoon said. “I think these guys did a really good job understanding where the opportunities were. Last time we played at Akron, we had a double-digit lead. We were a little hesitant. We’ve grown our ability to play against the zone.”
The win places the Bulls tied for fifth overall in the MAC, tied with Kent State (17-12, 7-7 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (14-14, 7-7 MAC). However, due to losses to both squads – Kent State twice and Eastern Michigan once – the Bulls currently sit in seventh.
Although defeating Akron is impressive, the Bulls still have work to complete as Ohio comes to town this week.
“Going into this game, we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” Watson said. “We knew we had to prove something not only to ourselves, but to the rest of the conference.”
Tip-off is slated for Tuesday at 7 p.m.