UB 81, Akron 67
How UB Won: The Bulls shot it up from three in the first half (7 of 14) and then worked inside for 18 points in the paint in the second half. They were unfazed by the Akron's switch to zone, unlike when they squandered a 20-point lead in the first meeting. They made it to the free throw line 23 times, compared to just 12 for the Zips. And they turned it over a scant 10 times -- just four in the second half. Plus UB's starting backcourt of Tony Watson and Jarryn Skeete outscored Akron's backcourt starters, 31-20.
National Alert: Akron's national-best 19-game winning streak comes to and end. The Zips hadn't lost since Dec. 15 at Detroit.
Player of the Game: Akron's impressive season and its 19-game winning streak that ended Saturday are bound to give Zips like Zeke Marshall and Demetrius Treadwell support in the Player of the Year vote. But how can it really be anyone but Javon McCrea? He had 26 points, six rebounds, four blocks and two assists against the conference's most imposing front line. He went 13 of 18 from the field. He carried UB with 18 second-half points. And he's at or near the top in all the big statistical categories. Look at the numbers and it's a no-brainer.
Best Supporting Role: It would be criminal not to wrap UB's other starters into one package. Watson and Skeete both played 40 minutes. Will Regan went for 36 and Auraum Nuiriankh 32. The starting five went 27 of 47 from the field and only turned it over eight times.
Best Player (Losing Team): Zips 7-foot senior Zeke Marshall has come such a long way since those early days. He had 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and blocked five shots. He should be the MAC's Defensive Player of the Year. And he's a class act.
Major Bit Player: UB siwngman Raphell Thomas-Edwards, who's been out with back problems, played the final 4-plus minutes after Nuiriankh was ejected along with Akron's Deji Ibitayo. He came up big in that short time, making 3 of 4 free throws and snaring two rebounds.
Stat Check I: Akron went just 4 of 21 from three. They came in tied for second in the MAC in shooting percentage from behind the arc.
Stat Check II: The Bulls shot 60 percent in the second half (15 of 25) and outscored Akron by nine despite managing 12 fewer field goal attempts.
What It Means: Akron (23-5, 13-1) maintains a firm grasp on the MAC lead despite the defeat. UB (12-17, 7-7) remains tied for fourth with Kent State and Eastern Michigan but loses the tiebreaker to both. The top five teams avoid a first-round campus game in the MAC Tournament. Two games remain.
In the House: The crowd of 4,204 included former UB great Sam Pellom, who was honored in a pregame ceremony.
Next Up: UB entertains Ohio and star guard D.J. Cooper on Tuesday night. Akron's home to Miami.
They Said It
UB Coach Reggie Witherspoon: "Obviously our guys had to play well to beat this team. They're a great team. I said this before the game and I'll say it now, that we shouldn't be in the position where we're talking about whether they get an at=large. We should discontinue that talk and talk about their seeding, like we do some other teams around the country,
"Having said that, I think our guys have pesevered all year and made a great effort to just take it a day at a time in an attempt to just get better every single day and block out all the rest of the things. And I think today we put together a pretty good 40 minutes."
Akron center Zeke Marshall: "Their whole team was energized. . . . That number right beside our name (24th ranked), everyone wants to come and beat you. Everyone's going to come in energized against us because we've been on that huge winning streak. Sure enough they did tonight."
Akron Coach Keith Dambrot on 19 straight wins in an age of great parity: "It's incredible. The only time I've ever been involved in that is one time at Ashland College we won our first 15 games. And then obviously when I had LeBron (at St. Vincent-St. Mary's). Your margin of error's pretty good when you got LeBron. When you got better guys and you're noticably better than most of the teams you play you're going to win 53 out of 54 games.
"I felt like we might have felt it a little bit. We just didn't play relaxed, just never relaxed."
Dambrot on McCrea: "He was 11 points at our place. He was really good tonight. He kicked out guys asses really. But that's tonight. We'll see the next time. He's good. I mean he's one of the best players in the league obviously. He's been good as a freshman."
-- Bob DiCesare
taggedCollege basketball | Mid-American Conference | Mid-Majors | NCAA Tournament | University at Buffalo