BUFFALO, NY - The University at Buffalo men's basketball team shot 63.3% from the floor, its fifth highest total in school history, as the Bulls defeated Akron, 96-90, Wednesday evening at Alumni Arena. For the first time since 1999, the Bulls had three players score at least 20 points, led by Javon McCrea who just missed recording the first triple-double in school history with 20 points, 13 rebounds and a career-high eight assists. The victory improves Buffalo to 15-8, surpassing its win total from last year, and putting the Bulls in a first place tie in the MAC East at 9-4.
The two teams showed early that it was going to be a high-scoring affair as the Bulls shot nearly 68% in the first half. However, Akron stayed in the contest, hitting six first half three pointers and shooting 54.8% itself in the opening half. Neither team led by more than six points in the opening half and Akron did take its only two leads midway through the half. The Zips led 24-22 with 8:53 left when the Bulls went on a 6-0 run following a pair of three pointers from Will Regan and Joshua Freelove. The Zips tied the game back up at 35-35, but another Freelove three pointer and a McCrea dunk put the Bulls on top for the remainder of the night. A dunk from McCrea in the final seconds of the half gave UB a 48-42 lead into the break.
UB was consistently good offensively on Wednesday evening as it followed its 48 points in the first half up with 48 more in the second. UB opened up the second half on an 8-2 run, capped off on a Freelove three as Akron called the quick timeout. The Bulls got their lead up to as many as 14 following a steal and a fast-break jam from senior Jarod Oldham, giving the Bulls a 60-46 lead with 16:04 left.
The Bulls continued to lead by double figures with 10:00 left, but a 13-5 run from the Zips pulled them within 79-77 with 5:14 left. UB answered right back with four straight points, but a three pointer from Quincy Diggs put Akron back down just 85-82 with 2:20 left. However, the Bulls answered again going on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a fastbreak layup from freshman Shannon Evans, who completed the and-1 play. The Zips got no closer than six during the final minute of play.
"I'm excited for our guys and for our program," said head coach Bobby Hurley. "Akron is a great team and they showed that tonight, but it was great to see the way our offense played this evening. This was a high-level game and it was terrific to watch the way our guys responded."
Freelove went over the 20-point mark for the first time in a UB uniform tonight as he tied for game-high honors with 21 points, going 9-of-13 from the floor. He also added a career-high four assists. McCrea moved closer to the all-time scoring record as he finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, a career-high eight assists and three blocks. The double-double was his 13th of the year. McCrea now has 1,889 points in his career.
Completing the 20 point scorers was Oldham, who tied his career high with 20 points as he also added four assists, three rebounds and a steal. It was the first time that UB had three players with 20-plus points in the same game since Nov. 19, 1999 against Niagara when Nikolai Alexeev (26), Rick Fox (23) and Alexi Vasiliev (21) achieved the feat.
Evans added 13 points and four assists off the bench, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Regan had eight points and three rebounds, while sophomore Justin Moss had seven points and four rebounds off the bench.
The Bulls set season highs for points (96), field goals (38) and FG percentage (63.3%), which was the fifth highest in school history and the best percentage in a game since the 2009-10 season. The 96 points were the most against a Division I opponent since March 4, 2008.
Akron had four players in double figures, led by 21 points from Demetrius Treadwell. The two teams combined for 186 points, shooting a combined 73-for-127 from the field. However, the Bulls had clear advantages on the board, 35-25, and in the assist department where UB had 21, compared to just nine for the Zips. The two also combined to turn it over just 12 times.
The Bulls will head back on the road on Saturday as they face Kent State for the second time. Tip off is at 12:00 pm and it will air on TWCS.