LEWISTON, NY - In a game that featured 173 points and 73 trips to the free throw line, the University at Buffalo men's basketball team fell on the short end Wednesday night at Niagara, 92-81. Senior Javon McCrea led all scorers with 31 points in the affair.
Buffalo had its only lead on the night at 5-2 just 1:30 into the contest and found itself fighting its way back into the game for the rest of the evening. The Purple Eagles went on a 12-0 run to take a 14-5 lead and increased its first-half advantage to 16, their largest lead of the game. The Bulls scored the final basket of the half on a layup from Xavier Ford as they went into the half trailing, 47-33.
The Bulls opened the second half on an 11-1 run over the first two and a half minutes, capped off on a layup from McCrea, but Niagara answered with eight straight points to regain a 12-point lead. UB again made a charge, this time using back-to-back fast break dunks from Jarod Oldham and Joshua Freelove to pull the Bulls within 71-66 with 8:12 left.
UB remained in the hunt as time continued to wind down as a pair of McCrea free throws pulled UB within 83-79 with 3:30 left. However, the Bulls would manage just two points over the final 3:30 as Niagara hit late free throws for the final margin of victory.
"We didn't get off to a very good start today and in the first half we lost the effort game," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and dug a hole for ourselves. We need to get back to the drawing board defensively and figure out a way to not let our opponent shoot such a high percentage from the field."
McCrea scored 31 points, giving him 1,512 for his career, just three points shy of moving into fourth place in school history in scoring. The Newark, NY native completed the double-double with 14 rebounds, just two shy of his career high. Nine of those rebounds came on the offensive end. He also added two blocks and three steals.
Freelove finished with a career-best 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Ford added 10 points and five rebounds. Sophomore Jarryn Skeete added eight points and seven rebounds, while Oldham added six points and three assists.
Freshman Shannon Evans recorded his first career points on a three pointer in the opening half and he finished with five points and two rebounds.
After opening the season with two on the road, the Bulls will open a four-game homestand beginning this Saturday against West Virginia Wesleyan at 3:00 pm.