SYRACUSE, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team had their three-game winning streak snapped as a strong second half performance came up just short in an 81-74 loss at ACC foe Syracuse on Tuesday night in front of 17,335 people at the Carrier Dome.
The Bulls received good news earlier in the day on Tuesday as senior Wes Clark was cleared by the NCAA to make his Buffalo debut and the Detroit, MI native didn't disappoint as he scored 11 first half points. He kept the Bulls in the game despite the team shooting just 29.6% over the first 20 minutes of action. Syracuse led by nine, 36-27, at the break.
UB was able to make some adjustments at the half and came out firing, shooting nearly 43% from the floor in the second half. The Orange built their lead up to 13, their largest of the game, with 16:39 left when junior Jeremy Harris scored five straight points to pull UB back within eight. Three free throws from junior CJ Massinburg got Buffalo back even closer, as it trailed just 44-39 with 14:32 left.
The Bulls would wind up going on a 22-8 run as a jumper from Clark put the Bulls ahead, 53-52 with 8:59 left. Buffalo ended up taking one-point leads on four separate occasions, including a quick 6-0 run late in the half. Syracuse led 67-62 when the Bulls got a layup from Jayvon Graves, followed by a fast-break dunk from Massinburg and a steal and layup from Clark to go up 68-67 with 3:16 left. However, Syracuse answered with a big three from Frank Howard with 3:01 left and the Orange would not trail again. Oshae Brissett, who went a perfect 16-for-16 from the free throw line, hitting six late free throws to seal the game.
"I thought we played really hard tonight, but we had a tough time with that zone, especially in the first half, and unfortunately we were just never able to build much of a lead," said head coach Nate Oats. "It was great to have Wes out there and I thought we matched up well against them, but we need to hit some shots. The great thing is we have a quick turnaround before we head to Texas A&M."
Junior Nick Perkins led the Bulls with 18 points, while adding seven rebounds, including six of those on the offensive end. Clark added 15 points in his Buffalo debut, while adding six assists and a steal.
Massinburg struggled from the floor, but he still finished with 14 points as he went a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line. Massinburg again led the Bulls in rebounding with eight. Harris and freshman Jayvon Graves each finished with eight points, while Davonta Jordan had six.
The Bulls shot 92.3% from the free throw line, their best performance from the line since going a perfect 8-for-8 again Akron on March 12, 2016. Syracuse also shot well from the charity stripe, making 24 of their 29 attempts. The Orange went to the line 26 times in the second half, opposed to just five trips for Buffalo.
Buffalo will continue its difficult road trip on Thursday night when the Bulls will play the eighth-ranked team in the country in Texas A&M down in College Station. The game will tip at 9pm EST and air nationally on the SEC Network.