UB Bulls drop third straight game without Bearden

Akron defeats Buffalo 80-70


The men’s basketball team was a solid defensive half away from knocking off the hottest team in the Mid-American Conference.

But Akron reminded the Bulls which team is the best three-point shooter in the league.

The Bulls (14-12, 7-6 MAC) lost their third straight game with an 80-70 loss on the road to Akron (21-5, 10-3 MAC) in the James A. Rhodes Arena Tuesday night. The Zips went 9 of 16 from three-point range in the second half en route to a 47-point second half. Buffalo is now on a three-game losing streak, all three games played without suspended sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden, and has dropped to fourth in the MAC East standings.

“We guarded them fairly well, we just had some mental mistakes,” said head coach Nate Oats. “We have to stop fouling. We stayed it in, fought back, then [freshman forward] Nick [Perkins] loses his composure and it’s over.”

The Bulls got two technical fouls in the second half, the first by Oats and the second and more damning by Perkins.

Perkins receiving a technical foul with 6:45 left in regulation and the game tied at 64. Akron nailed three of the four free throws, giving the Zips a three-point lead they would hold onto for the rest of the game.

Perkins’ foul propelled Akron to a 16-4 run and pushed the lead to 12 points. Buffalo ran out of time to retaliate.

Buffalo played a much better first half. The Bulls knocked down 55 percent of its shots, led by freshman guard CJ Massinburg and his 12 first-half points. Akron, despite shooting 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from three, still managed to only trail by three points heading into half.

Buffalo stifled the fourth best scoring team in the conference on the defensive end in the first half, while creating easy opportunities on the offensive end. After a layup from Akron guard Isaiah Johnson gave the Zips a 20-19 lead, the Bulls went on a 17-3 run to take a 36-23 lead.

The lead didn’t last long.

“Between the turnovers and just not guarding the three-point line, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Oats said. “We didn’t have Bearden, that hurts our rotation, hurts our guard play. We’re down a couple guys, but they’re down a couple guys, too. No excuses. It’s February.”

Junior forward David Kadiri finished with 10 points and three rebounds off the bench. Junior wing Willie Conner finished with nine points and three rebounds. Junior forward Blake Hamilton had six points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 32 minutes of play.

Massinburg continued his impressive play, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four steals in 33 minutes of play. The freshman guard has given the Bulls another solid performance on offense after scoring a career-high 36 in Buffalo’s last game. Oats expressed excitement in Massinburg’s play while Bearden has been sitting out.

“Good thing [Massinburg] is playing well, because some of the other guys are struggling now,” Oats said. “He played well in the non-conference … He struggled in conference play and now he picked it back up. He’s a big, physical guard, could get at the rim and shoot it. Once we get Bearden back, the two of them together should be hard to keep them out of the line.”

The Bulls return home to face Bowling Green (13-13, 4-9 MAC) on Saturday at Alumni Arena. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m.

Quentin Haynes is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at quentin.haynes@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HaynesTheWriter.