This may have been my fault. But then again … looking back it made too much sense. It always makes too much sense.
For one, Buffalo had Akron up 30-10 at Rhodes Arena back on January 26, only to see the Zips come from behind and win that game 68-64. Then there was a divergent set of emotions for these teams; Akron was coming off an emotional, thrilling win on the road at Ohio, in which they held off the home team to win in overtime. Likewise, Buffalo had just lost an emotional, thrilling game at Kent State on this shot.
But the on-court reason was simple. Buffalo won tonight the way Akron has won 19 straight games: with a team effort. Javon McCrea brought his A-game yet again (26 points, four blocks) and usually that singular type of performance is not enough to push them to a victory. But three others had excellent nights:
• Tony Watson (13 points, six assists), has been there at times with amazing performances and this was another solid game for him;
• Will Regan (16 points, seven rebounds) had a monster game against Niagara with 26 points and eight boards, but has been more of a role player. It’s safe to say this was probably his second-best performance of the season;
• Jarryn Skeete (18 points, six rebounds, five assists) a freshman who would’ve had a career high in points if not for that 19-point game earlier this year against … Akron. Here’s an incredible pattern: Skeete averages 6.2 points per game against everybody else and 18.5 points against Akron. Maybe there’s something about Canadians playing basketball against Australians. In English dialect paper-rock-scissors, moose smothers kangaroo.
I’m also sorry for ever suggesting that Reggie Witherspoon’s job was in jeopardy. Sure, this win improves their record to a mere 12-17, but beating a top 25 team in impressive fashion should wash away any doubt for a while. It’s also not a stretch to say that Buffalo can play like this, and if they stay hot in the tournament, you never know. They might hastily re-write the pre-cooked narrative of either-Akron-or-Ohio being the story of the MAC.
As for Akron, the streak had to end sometime, and better now than, say, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It wasn’t a particularly awful game for them offensively, but nobody other than Zeke Marshall (17 points, six rebounds, five blocks) had terrific nights. Alex Abreu and Demetrius Treadwell both had to take 15 shots to muster 14 points and nobody else provided more than six points and as a team the Zips had nine assists. The real breakdown was defensively, allowing 1.23 points per possession, their second worst night of the year next to the Creighton loss.
So with the Ohio win at BGSU, this still doesn’t completely clinch the No. 1 seed. They finish their season with home bouts against Miami and Kent State, and oh lord I have this feeling they’ll make an example out of Miami. Ohio now has to face Buffalo and Miami. As for the Bulls, they scooch back up to 7-7 and are in better position to get a first-round bye, but while they’re now tied with Kent State and EMU at 7-7, they lose head-to-head tiebreakers against each. They’ll need help, but they helped themselves.
(And if you’re curious: the new longest winning streak in the country is Louisiana Tech, who has won 17 straight.)