ATHENS, Ohio – Although senior forward Doug Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) registered a career-high 20 points, the Ohio men's basketball team (13-16, 5-12 MAC) fell to Mid-American Conference East foe, No. 19 Buffalo (24-3, 15-2 MAC), 82-79, inside the Convocation Center Tuesday evening (March 5).
"You only get so many cracks at a ranked team in the MAC," said fifth-year head coach Saul Phillips. "We had a crack and made a loud out. A loud out."
Taylor went 9-of-11 from the field for his career-high, 20-point performance. Taylor added a team-high six rebounds, a game-high three blocks, a game-high two steals and an assist in his 27 minutes of play. Sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) followed closely behind with 17 points, going 8-of-14 from the field. Kirk added five rebounds and a team-high five assists in his 28 minutes of play. Redshirt sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) compiled 15 points and five rebounds in his 31 minutes of work. Redshirt-sophomore guard Connor Murrell (Sioux City, Iowa), added nine points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in his 19 minutes of play, while senior guard/forward Gavin Block (Lincoln, Ill.) and freshman guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) both contributed eight points for the Bobcats. Block added four rebounds and three assists in his 19 minutes of play while Preston added five rebounds, a team-high five assists and a steal in his 34 minutes of play.
"Fun is right," said Taylor. "I kept telling everyone in the huddles and in timeouts that I am having a great time out here. I am just having fun competing against great competition, the best we have played all year."
Ohio would snatch the jumpball and be first on the board with Taylor converting a layup, but Buffalo was quick to answer with a three-point basket. Ohio and Buffalo traded baskets, however, Buffalo compiled three-point baskets in response to the Bobcats two-pointers creating a 12-8 advantage for Buffalo. The Bulls registered a basket to extend the lead to 14-8, but Preston and Block combined for five unanswered points that shrunk the lead to 14-13 with 12 minutes remaining in the opening half. Taylor added a basket that gave Ohio its first lead since the opening minute, putting them up 15-14. The Bulls however strung together back-to-back three-point baskets to regain the lead.
Ohio and Buffalo traded baskets once again until Kirk registered back-to-back buckets that brought Ohio within three, with nine minutes remaining in the first half. Buffalo converted four free-throw attempts that extended the lead to 30-23, but Carter and Taylor combined for back-to-back baskets that shrunk the deficit to three as the five-minute mark approached. The two teams traded baskets until Buffalo registered back-to-back three-point baskets resulting in a 39-29 advantage and forced a Bobcat timeout. With under two minutes remaining, Carter registered a layup that was followed by a defensive stop and a turnaround jumper by redshirt-freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) that pulled Ohio within six, trailing 39-33. Buffalo and Ohio both converted a pair of free-throws to end the first half resulting in a 41-35 Buffalo advantage at halftime.
Ohio registered a 48.5 percent field goal percentage going 16-of-33 from the field – including 1-of-8 from three-point range, compared to Buffalo who registered a 44.4 percent field goal percentage going 12-of-27 from the field for the half – including 11-of-20 from three-point range. Ohio registered 14 total rebounds and six points off the bench compared to Buffalo who registered 18 total rebounds and nine points off the bench. However, Ohio compiled 24 points in the paint and 12 total assists compared to Buffalo who only registered two points in the paint and 10 total assists. The Bobcats forced 11 turnovers for 12 points while Buffalo only forced seven turnovers for four points.
Ohio went on a 6-2 run to open the half to cut the deficit to 43-41. After both teams suffered a scoring drought, Buffalo registered a pair of free-throws to extend the lead to four with just over 16 minutes remaining in the game. Ohio responded with a pair of free-throws that brought the deficit back to two until the Bulls strung together a pair of three-point baskets to extend the lead to 53-45 with just over 13 minutes remaining. Block shrunk the lead to six, 53-47, however Buffalo went on a 6-0 run to generate its largest lead of the game, going up 59-47. Carter registered a layup basket to end the Bulls run and sparked a 9-2 run that brought the deficit to 61-56 with under eight minutes remaining. Buffalo registered a layup, but Murrell answered with a layup of his own. Carter then converted a layup and the foul shot that was followed by a free-throw conversion for Murrell cutting the Buffalo lead to 63-62 with just over five minutes remaining.
Ohio and Buffalo traded baskets until Buffalo drained a deep three that extended the to 70-65. Carter drew a foul and converted a pair of free-throws that shrunk the lead back to three, but Buffalo would again answer with a three-point basket. Kirk was able to get to the rim for a basket that brought the Bobcats back within four with under two-minutes remaining. Buffalo recorded a layup that forced an Ohio timeout with under one-minute remaining. Kirk responded out of the timeout registering a layup, however, the Bobcats were forced to foul. Buffalo converted a pair of free-throws before Block drained a three with 41 seconds remaining that brought Ohio within three. Buffalo would hit three free-throws that extended the Bulls advantage to 80-74, however, Kirk would drain a three with 16 seconds remaining that cut the UB lead to 80-77. Buffalo went back to the free-throw line as Ohio was forced to foul and stop the clock. Buffalo converted both free-throw attempts but, Preston registered a layup that made it a one possession game with one second left. Buffalo would miss both free-throw attempts, but the clock forced a half-court shot attempt that did not fall for the Bobcats and securing an 82-79 victory for Buffalo.
"We were fighting till the end today," said Murrell. "They were hitting some tough shots but I feel like every time they did we answered."
Ohio finished the game with a 49.3 percent (33-of-67) field goal percentage and 35 total rebounds compared to Buffalo who finished the game with a 42.4 percent (25-of-59) field goal percentage and 38 total rebounds. Ohio registered 54 points in the paint and 20 total assists compared to only 18 points in the paint and 17 total assists for the Bulls. Ohio compiled 11 points off the bench and three blocks compared to 20 points of the bench and two blocks for Buffalo. However, Ohio forced 16 turnovers for 19 points with eight steals, compared to Buffalo who forced only 11 turnovers for eight points with six steals.
"I thought just overall 20 assists and 11 turnovers off their pressure was really good," said Phillips. "I think the only area where we were deficient offensively was behind the arc. I think our guys did a great job of absorbing our game plan."
Jeremy Harris led the Bulls in scoring with a game-high 20 points going 6-of-9 from the field. Harris added six rebounds and four steals in his 32 minutes of play. CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins followed closely behind with 17 points each. Massinburg added seven rebounds and a game-high six assists in his 34 minutes of play while Perkins added a game-high eight rebounds in his 32 minutes of play. Davonta Jordan added 12 points, a block and a steal in his 16 minutes of play for the Bulls.
The Bobcats will return to the Convo for one final time in the regular season on Friday, March 8 when Ohio hosts Miami. It will also serve as Senior Day for the Bobcats, where Gavin Block, James Gallon and Doug Taylor will be honored for the Bobcat careers. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
"I told the guys this is my second to last game in the Convo and I want to make it as special as I possibly can just to treasure these moments," said Taylor. "Against Miami on Senior night, we need to come out with a win."