UB men’s basketball (18-11, 9-7 MAC) lost a hard-fought battle to the Akron Zips (22-7, 12-4 MAC) 86-73 at Alumni Arena Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls got off to a hot start, making their first four shots of the game and jumping out to a 10-2 lead.
Sophomore forward Jeenathan Williams led the Bulls in scoring in the first half and flirted with a double-double, tallying 16 points and collecting 7 rebounds. He finished the game with 18 points and 9 boards.
The Bulls were hot from beyond the arc, with 21 of their 38 first half points coming from 3-point range.
Head coach Jim Whitesell kept his squad fresh as he played 10 different players in the first half, five of whom hit at least one 3-pointer.
UB held the lead until the last four minutes of the first half when Akron junior guard Loren Cristian Jackson ignited a 9-0 run, giving the Zips a lead by one with 4:04 left.
From there, Akron and UB traded blows with four lead changes in the final four minutes of the first half.
At the half, UB had a mere 1-point advantage, leading 38-37.
The Bulls continued their efforts in a close second-half battle with a number of electrifying highlights.
Junior forward Josh Mballa contributed a pair of and-one layups midway through the second half, finishing the game with 9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal.
Sophomore guard Ronaldo Segu also added 9 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks, displaying consecutive skillful finishes to energize the Bulls with 9:32 left in regulation.
Senior guard Antwain Johnson added 12 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, and junior guard Jayvon Graves contributed 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks to the Bulls fight.
Jackson led the Zips, tying his career high in points with 35 while adding 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
A series of Jackson’s field goals extended the Zips’ lead 80-73 with 2:25 left in regulation. An Akron dunk sealed the game in the last 1:25.
With the loss, the Bulls continue to pursue fourth place in the MAC as they approach tournament play still tied with the Ball State Cardinals (16-13, 9-7).
“I’m not worried about anything else but Miami [Ohio],” Whitesell said. “You play for Tuesday night’s game. We have to rise up and play sharper [and] better, be more complete on both ends of the floor.”
UB will host the Miami (OH) RedHawks (12-17, 5-11 MAC) on senior night Tuesday at Alumni Arena. With a win, the Bulls could solidify a first-round bye for MAC tournament play.
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