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Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Akron eliminates men’s basketball in MAC quarterfinals

Ronaldo Segu has last-second chance, but Bulls fall, 70-68

Men's basketball head coach Jim Whitesell looks on in frustration during a regular season game against Northern Illinois.
Men's basketball head coach Jim Whitesell looks on in frustration during a regular season game against Northern Illinois.

Men’s basketball (19-11, 13-6 MAC) fell in heartbreaking fashion to the Akron Zips (22-9, 14-6 MAC), 70-68, in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. 

The loss marked the end of the Bulls’ 2021-22 campaign — one that saw them open as conference favorites but finish without having won a postseason game.

Thursday’s matchup was a back-and-forth affair that saw nine lead changes and 11 ties. The game was never out of reach for the Bulls, but they couldn’t muster up enough of an attack when it mattered most. 

“That’s the beauty of the game of basketball,” senior forward Jeenathan Williams said in the post-game press conference. “There’s ups and there’s downs… We had a crazy season, we won nine in a row but started 4-4 and fought our way back into the MAC top five.” 

Buffalo had 32 points in the paint but only six fastbreak points. UB turned 12 offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points and turned 15 turnovers into 12 points. 

Williams led all scorers with 17 points, four assists, two blocks, three steals and seven boards. The Rochester native was also responsible for six of UB’s 14 turnovers.

The other two members of the “Big 3” — senior forward Josh Mballa and senior guard Ronaldo Segu — had quiet performances. Mballa, who averaged 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, only grabbed three points and two rebounds. Segu had six points, one assist and two rebounds — one of his worst performances of the season. 

Senior guard Maceo Jack recorded 11 points (5-for-6 from the free-throw line), one assist and five rebounds. Sophomore center David Skogman tallied nine points and grabbed a team-high eight boards. 

The bench contributed greatly, netting 22 points — many of which came down the stretch.

“That group [the bench] was staying after it. They had a lot of opportunities and really, they’re the ones that took the lead for us,” head coach Jim Whitesell said. 

Graduate forward Tra’von Fagan hit double figures with 12 points. Redshirt senior guard Keishawn Brewton had seven points and one rebound. Freshman guard Curtis Jones made one free throw, his sole point of the game, and added two assists, one rebound and one steal. Junior forward LaQuill Hardnett added two points, two rebounds, one assist and one block.

UB found itself down 10 at the midway mark of the second half. An 8-3 Bulls run capped by a Williams jumper chopped the deficit to three with 7:08 to go. Clutch triples from Brewton tied the game at 62 apiece at the 4:28 mark. The Bulls erased a 10-point deficit to clutch a 65-62 after a Hardnett steal led to a Fagan triple. 

A jumper from sophomore forward Enrique Freeman with 48 seconds to go tied the game at 68. Segu was brought off the bench with 38 seconds left in an attempt to bring in more offense. A foul under the glass led to two free throws from sophomore guard Greg Tribble, which gave the Zips a 70-68 advantage with 4.3 seconds remaining. 

“I tried my best to Superman but it’s the ref that makes the final decision so what they call, we have to respect,” Fagan said.

Segu created a look for himself from three right as time expired, but the ball hit the rim, sending the Bulls back to Buffalo. 

“Heartbreaking game, give Akron credit,” Whitesell said. “The game went back and forth until the last play and that’s kind of what this tournament is about. It just really hurts when you’re on the wrong end of it. But I’m proud of my guys.” 

Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at 


Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is studying communications with the hopes of being a sideline reporter. In her spare time, she can be found in the gym, watching football or vibing to Mac Miller. Kayla is on Twitter @kaylasterner. 



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