Box Score (PDF)
ATHENS, Ohio -- Despite a second career double-double from freshman guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.), the Ohio men's basketball team (9-11, 2-6 MAC) could not overcome Mid-American Conference East Division rival Buffalo (16-5, 8-0 MAC), falling by a score of 73-66 on Friday (Jan. 26) at the Convocation Center.
The Bobcats outscored the Bulls in the second half but could not overcome a 33.8 percent (22-of-65) shooting performance for the game that saw Ohio make just 7-of-27 shots in the opening 20 minutes of play. Buffalo shot 42.2 percent (27-of-64) in the victory and outrebounded Ohio by a 51-38 count. The Bulls turned 15 offensive boards into 19 second-chance points.
"In wins, losses, everything in between, what I'm looking for is progress and, certainly, some progress was made tonight," said fourth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "I don't want to be part of a program where 2-6 is okay. I don't. I'm not going to be. But, we take care of a few things a little bit better, and we just knocked off a team that hasn't had anybody come within 10 points of them."
Kirk provided Ohio with a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, with 15 of his points coming in the second half. He shot 7-of-16 from the field with a pair of treys en route to his team-high 18th game scoring in double figures. He has achieved the feat in each of the last 12 contests. Kirk also added three assists and a steal in 35 minutes. Senior guard Mike Laster (Detroit, Mich.) contributed 11 points, one rebound and an assist over 31 minutes. Graduate forward Kevin Mickle (Brooklyn, N.Y.) finished with 11 points, three rebounds, an assist and a block in 24 minutes of work off of the bench. Junior guard Jordan Dartis (Newark, Ohio) went a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line en route to 11 points. He also logged four rebounds, an assist a block and steal in 33 minutes. Junior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) tallied eight points, a game-high four assists, four rebounds, a block and a steal over 30 minutes. Junior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) recorded four points, nine rebounds, a game-high four blocks and a steal in 27 minutes. Taylor has now tallied at least three blocks in each of the last three games and seven times total this season.
"We know we probably did the best in the conference in stopping them, so that's a plus," said Kirk. "We still got a lot of work to do. Hopefully, moving forward, we can work hard so we can pull that one out next time."
Junior forward Nick Perkins led Buffalo with a 20-point performance off of the bench to pace all scorers. He went 8-of-11 from the field. Perkins alos logged seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Junior guard Jeremy Harris made 7-of-15 shots with a pair of triples to finish with 17 points and achieved a double-double with 10 rebounds. He also contributed two assists, two steals and a block in 36 minutes. Junior guard CJ Massinburg posted 11 points and eight boards in 33 minutes. Junior forward Ikenna Smart also achieved a double-double for the Bulls with 10 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. He also compiled an assist and a block in 23 minutes.
Two layups by Smart in the first 6:34 helped the Bulls open up the game with a 9-2 lead. The Bobcats answered with an 11-5 run, with a three-pointer, a jumper and a dunk by Mickle over a 1:24 span trimming Buffalo's lead down to one at 14-13 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half. An 8-0 run by the Bulls over the ensuing two-plus minutes put Buffalo back up by nine, but a jumper by Dartis, a layup by Laster and two made free throws by Block cut Ohio's deficit down to three at 22-19 with just over five minutes to play in the half. The Bulls outscored the Bobcats by a 9-3 count over the final 4:52, though, to take a nine-point advantage into halftime at 31-22.
Buffalo's lead swelled to a game-high 14 points twice in the first 2:30 of the second half after a pair of treys by Massinburg and sophomore guard Davonta Jordan. Kirk almost single-handedly brought the Bobcats' deficit back down to five, scoring seven points on a 9-0 Ohio run to trim Buffalo's advantage to 39-34 with 14:42 left. A three-pointer by freshman guard Jayvon Graves knocked down a three with just over 12 minutes to go to make it 50-39 in favor of the Bulls, but Ohio answered back with a 7-2 run highlighted by an and-one layup by Kirk to make it a six-point affair at 52-46 with just over nine minutes remaining. Buffalo answered again, though, this time with a 13-6 run that saw Perkins and Massinburg both knock down threes to build the Bulls' lead back up to 13 at 52-65 with just under five minutes to play. Ohio refused to go away quietly, however, as Kirk drained a triple, Laster made a layup and Dartis sank a pair of free throws to make it a six-point game again at 59-65 with 3:38 to go. Both teams went scoreless over the next 1:49 until Harris hit a big three for the Bulls to make it a nine-point game. Laster countered on Ohio's next possession by knocking down a three-pointer and drawing a foul from Massinburg. Laster sank the freebie to complete the four-point play and keep Ohio's hopes alive down five, 68-63, with 1:35 left. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, senior guard Wes Clark made three free throws and Massinburg converted two more in the final 48 seconds to seal the victory for Buffalo. Ohio had several opportunities in the final 1:12 to close the gap further but could not convert on their opportunities.
"We put in a game plan defensively that our guys executed about as well as you can," said Phillips. "Kept them out of transition. Kept them under one point per possession. It put us in a spot where if you make a couple plays down the stretch, you can walk away with a much-needed win. Unfortunately, there was a stretch where we had a missed dunk, we missed an open three, got it back, missed two free throws. Those are the opportunities that seem to be eluding us right now. Thirty-three percent (shooting) isn't going to be good enough to beat Buffalo."
Ohio closes a stretch of three road trips in four games when it visits MAC East Division rival Bowling Green next Tuesday (Jan. 30) at the Stroh Center. The opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.