Buffalo 56, Evansville 50
EVANSVILLE, IN - Fueled by a suffocating defense and balanced scoring, the Buffalo Bulls (1-2) earned its first win of the season Thursday evening, beating the Evansville Purple Aces (0-2) 56-50. The game was the first of three straight at the Ford Center, as part of the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Javon McCrea led all players with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Bulls recorded a season-high 10 steals and held the Aces to a 34.5 percent field goal percentage in the game and just 3-19 from three. Offensively, UB shot 48.9 percent overall and 58.3 percent on two-point field goals.
"It was a really good team win. We played a lot of guys and they all contributed," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "Going into the game we wanted to get the ball inside a lot and we did that. Our posts passed the ball really well and that put a lot of pressure on our opponent. We had 19 assists on 22 baskets, and that's a lot, but we also had 19 turnovers. If we can keep chopping those down, our offense can be even more effective."
Through the first ten minutes of the game, the Bulls fell back into bad habits which limited its offense. Buffalo committed a turnover on five of its first six offensive possessions and had eight turnovers before Evansville even committed one. From the 11-minute mark in the first half on, though, the Bulls had 18 assists and just 11 turnovers.
It was the post play that helped to keep the game close in the first half, as Buffalo's size dominance over Evansville would lead to an advantage all game long. McCrea had eight points in the first half, while Cameron Downing and Xavier Ford each pitched in four points. Will Regan would clean up the glass for five rebounds in his 13 minutes in the half. At the break, Evansville led 27-25.
Despite 12 turnovers in the first half, Buffalo's halfcourt defensive zone kept the hosts from taking advantage of the miscues. Evansville only scored five points off of turnovers in the first half, and despite forcing 19 in the game, it would only score seven points off of them.
Buffalo would tighten the screws on the Aces even more in the second half, allowing for the comeback. After UB got within three, 34-31, with 15:38 still to go, Evansville's Ned Cox threw down an alley-oop that brought the crowd of 3,572 fans to their feet. Instead of allowing the momentum to shift in the home team's favor, the Bulls responded with a run to take the first lead since the 15:52 mark in the first half.
From the alley-oop, the Bulls went on a 12-0 run over the next six minutes and fifty seconds, sparked by six of those points coming from Downing. The Aces went 0-7 and committed four turnovers in that stretch, and a 36-31 lead for Evansville soon became a 43-38 lead for Buffalo.
"I thought defensively we matched up really well," Witherspoon said. "They had a couple times they broke us down, but a lot of the shots they took were tough shots. When you're used to playing man-to-man and you play a zone, you have to trust the zone even when they hit one or two shots on you. We committed to the zone and it paid off."
The lead would wax and wane from that point on, with Evansville even tying it up at the 4:28 mark, but the Bulls would never relinquish the lead. That was part and parcel with a game from Downing that Witherspoon said was the best game in Cameron's career. The junior big man went a perfect 6-6 from the floor while playing a career-high 24 minutes.
"When we were able to have Cam on the floor for 24 minutes, it helped us offensively and defensively," Witherspoon said. "He's an experienced guy that helps us."
He teamed well with McCrea, who put together one of the team's best all-around performances of the young season. He stuffed the stat box with 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three blocks in 25 minutes.
With all the success the team was having defensively, it was still unable to find paydirt from deep in its first eight attempts in the game. Coming into the game, the team had made at least one three pointer in every game, going back to January 31, 2007 at Western Michigan. The streak would be kept alive in the most dramatic of fashions, as Jarod Oldham sank a three with the shot clock expiring to give the team a 50-45 lead with just 2:26 to play. The junior point guard finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Oldham's three gave the team an important cushion at the time, but ultimately the defense would again hold Evansville scoreless for an extended period of time. After the Aces tied the game at 45 with 4:28 to play, the UB defense would not allow another point to the home team until a desperation three pointer with 13 seconds left and the game out of reach.
The win was the first time in the history of the series that the road team won a game. It was also the team's sixth win ever against a Missouri Valley Conference team.
With two games still to play over the next two days, the team will now prepare for Western Illinois. Tomorrow's game is scheduled for 6 pm (EST).
BAYAMON, P.R. – For the second time in three games, the Akron Zips forced overtime, this time falling 69-65 to Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Thursday.
Akron opened the extra period with four points from Zeke Marshall, before he was called for hit fifth foul with 2:45 remaining in OT. Following a defensive stop, the Zips missed two open shots to push their lead to six or seven. Oklahoma State's Phil Forte would cut the UA lead to one with a 3-ball and later game the Cowboys a two-point lead (67-65) with three free throws.
Alex Abreu's layup attempt with 22 seconds remaining would not fall as the Cowboys would seal the game at the line.
Brian Walsh led Akron (1-2) with his first-career double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. Marshall also added a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. It was the first time since March 13, 2010, that two UA players recorded double-doubles in the same game.
Abreu added 13 points and six dimes as Jake Kretzer rounded out the four Zips in double figures with 10 points and eight boards. For the game, Akron shot 30.0 percent from the floor (12-of-70) and 30.8 percent from long range (8-of-26).
Oklahoma State (2-0) closed the contest hitting 37.5 percent from the floor (21-of-56) and an identical 30.8 percent from behind the arc (4-of-13). UA out-rebounded OSU 45-43 and committed few turnovers (13 to 16).
Le'Bryan Nash led the Cowboys with a game-high 18 points.
Neither team gained much of an advantage until OSU used a 10-0 run over a four-minute stretch to grab a 47-40 lead (12:44). The Zips used four free throws to close within 49-43 before OSU opened up a 53-43 lead with 9:40 remaining.
Akron began chipping away at the deficit at the charity stripe, hitting five freebies to close the gap to 53-48 with 6:00 left. The run forced the Cowboys to call timeout.
Despite going nearly 11-and-a-half minutes without a bucket from the field, Akron as able to claw its way back into the game. The Zips' defense held the Cowboys without a field goal for the final 2:40 of regulation, scoring the final five points to force overtime.
The Zips had some early-game jitters, falling behind 5-0, but came back to take a 10-7 lead heading into the under-16 media timeout. Abreu scored Akron's first five points while Deji Ibitayo and Pat Forsythe added the other five.
Oklahoma State used a 10-1 run to open up a 19-13 advantage before the Zips closed to within one (19-18) by the under-8 media timeout (7:35). Abreu gave UA the lead on its next possession.
The Cowboys would answer and grabbed a 30-23 advantage with 4:15 remaining in the opening half. The Zips would score nine of the last 12 points and would head to the locker room down 33-32.
Walsh led the Zips with eight points in the first 20 minutes on 3-of-7 shooting. Abreu and Kretzer pitched in with seven points each. The Zips shot 37.5 percent from the floor (12-of-32) and forced 10 OSU turnovers. The Cowboys shot 43.5 percent (10-of-23) and held a 20-15 advantage on the boards.
The Zips will play the loser of the Tennessee-UNC Asheville game on Friday beginning at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN3.