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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Early Season Misery in the MAC

Hopes were high throughout Bulls nation leading up to Saturday's Mid-American Conference opener for the men's basketball team. However, things didn't go according to plan.

The Bulls (8-5, 0-1 MAC) fell apart after a solid first half performance and suffered a heartbreaking, double-overtime loss to Bowling Green (6-9, 1-0 MAC), 74-71 at Alumni Arena on Saturday night.

After shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half the Bulls couldn't find the bottom of the basket, managing only a 29 percent shooting clip for the remainder of regulation and the two overtime periods.

Defensively the Bulls weren't much better, allowing the Falcons to shoot 52 percent for the game. Head coach Reggie Witherspoon thinks that the combination of poor defense and the lack of offensive production led to the defeat.

"We typically don't give up 52 percent shooting, and we typically don't shoot as bad as we did tonight," Witherspoon said. "So in that sense I guess it was the perfect storm. [But] give Bowling Green credit. They came in and played the game at their pace…They made the shots that we missed."

Senior guard Byron Mulkey played all 50 minutes in the game but wasn't his usual self, missing two key free throws down the stretch and shooting an abysmal 4-for-16 in the game.

Mulkey, along with junior guard Zach Filzen combined to shoot 8-for-31 from the field in the loss, never figuring out the Bowling Green 2-3 defense.

Bulls' forward Mitchell Watt explained after the game that Bowling Green plays a unique defensive set but that it was no excuse for the way his team played.

"They play their 2-3 zone a little different than most teams play it," Watt said. "But if we make the easy layups that we missed tonight, we win."

Buffalo got off to a sluggish start in the game after a wrist injury to junior forward Titus Robinson forced him out of the starting lineup. In a surprising move, Witherspoon decided to go with sophomore Mike Clifford in only his second game back from academic ineligibility to start the season.

The offensive flow was heavily affected by the change and the Bulls didn't seem to get into a rhythm early in the game. Witherspoon noticed the lack of cohesion without Robinson in the starting lineup.

"We didn't move the ball with any kind of rhythm," Witherspoon said. "We were completely and totally out of sorts. And the things that we worked on [for the game] we just didn't execute."

Sophomore guard Tony Watson II came off the bench and helped the Bulls take a 36-30 lead into the locker room at halftime with his on target 3-point shooting.

But Bowling Green came storming out in the second half and utilized a 10-2 run to take a 40-38 advantage with 16 minutes left in the second half.

Both teams traded blows down the stretch with neither team pulling ahead by more than four points. With time running out things looked bleak for the Bulls after an uncharacteristic miss by Mulkey at the charity stripe with five seconds remaining. But senior forward Jawaan Alston managed to grab the rebound off the miss and he was fouled on the put back attempt.

Alston drained both free throws to send the game into overtime.

The play of freshman phenom Javon McCrea kept the Bulls close throughout the game. He finished with a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds while blocking two shots and recording two steals.

With 2:13 remaining in the first overtime period, McCrea was assessed his fifth, disqualifying foul and the Bulls really struggled in the paint on both sides of the ball the rest of the way, getting outrebounded 10-5 in the final seven minutes.

Watt, who had his best performance of the season against Brigham Young (16-1, 2-0 Mountain West Conference), came out with one of his more frustrating games of the year. He shot only 4-for-12 for the game and whiffed on a wide-open dunk at one point in the game.

However, with time running out in the first overtime, Watt grabbed one of his 12 rebounds with two seconds remaining and converted the put back to tie the game at 69.

Mulkey hit a mid-range jump shot to kick off the second overtime but Bowling Green responded by scoring the next five points. The Bulls final chance came on a last second runner from deep 3-point range, but it bounced off the rim and Buffalo dropped their second straight game at home after starting out 5-0 this season at Alumni Arena.

The Falcons had three players reach double digits in scoring. Falcons forward A'uston Calhoun gave his team a great effort off the bench. He finished with 20 points to lead the team and grabbed nine rebounds.

Bowling Green forward Scott Thomas recorded a double-double for the second time against the Bulls in his career. He finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the victory.

Buffalo will play its first conference road game on Thursday night and try to avenge its loss to Miami (OH) (6-9, 1-0 MAC) last season in the MAC Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday night.




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