Coming in, you hoped that Buffalo, one of the 25 fastest teams in the country by possessions/game, could take advantage of Akron, an already slower team also working on their fourth game in five days after playing out of the six seed.
Instead the Bulls took after Kent State's game plan yesterday: Completely lose track of your offense in the second half and let Akron keep it tight deep into the game. Justin Moss' ankle was much worse than anyone was willing to talk about, and he was a minimal factor for Buffalo in the nailbiting 68-59 win.
Jake Kretzer had 12 for the Zips, who saw seven different players top five points. Xavier Ford led UB with 17 points and 11 boards, but it was his signature energy early and late that pushed the Bulls over the Akron hump. A big putback dunk in the first half got the senior forward trending nationwide on Twitter, and he contributed four points in the second half-opening 6-0 run that got the Bulls on the right foot.
That run became 10-2 and staked the Bulls to a lead that held to near eight minutes to play, but saw it fizzle over that time thanks to an extended stretch of offensive struggles, poor shot selection, and a foul after nearly every missed shot and turnover. Somehow the Bulls held onto the lead despite UB missing every other foul shot down the stretch, as Akron missed their final five threes in an attempt to keep it close.
Akron did look tired in the first half, but not nearly as much as I was expecting as they played in front of their usual friendly crowd at the 'Q' and hit threes better than yesterday against Kent. After Bobby Hurley satisfied the deepest desires of everyone not wearing Buffalo blue by getting t'd up just 3:03 in, the Zips played strong on the glass and used a few threes to build a 23-15 lead.
From there, the Bulls took the lead on a strong 13-0 run behind Xavier Ford and Lamonte Bearden that carried them into the half up 33-32. Though the score was close, Akron managed their points on four made threes while also committed nine fouls to UB's four.
Ford, Bearden, and Evans all had seven or more points before the break, and the two guards finished with 10 and 17, respectively, though Shannon shot just 5-16. UB was only 2-13 from three, but owned a huge advantage in second chance points.
With the win, Buffalo advances to the MAC Championship Game tomorrow against Central Michigan, while Akron will wait for an invitation from one of the three lesser postseason tournaments. We'll of course have much, much more for you this weekend.