The University at Buffalo could not overcome the suspension of its leading scorer, foul trouble and a bad rebounding performance and lost a 71-69 decision to the University of Toledo Tuesday night.
Toledo star guard Jonathan Williams drove the lane and made a tough, 5-foot shot with 1.4 seconds left to decide it. Toledo outscored UB, 12-2 over the final 3:30.
The Bulls were handicapped by the absence of Lamonte Bearden, the sophomore guard from Wisconsin who’s averaging 13.5 points a game. He sat out because of what coach Nate Oats called a violation of team rules. Oats called the suspension indefinite. It’s believed Bearden will sit out three games in total. WKBW reported the suspension was due to a positive marijuana test.
UB only had eight players, because they also were without backup forward Nikola Rakicevic. He had to fly home to his native Serbia due to the death of his mother.
Despite all that, UB was in position to win because of a career-high 17 points from freshman forward Nick Perkins and an all-around team effort.
But Toledo wore UB down on the backboards, outrebounding the Bulls, 25-13, in the second half and outscoring the Bulls on second-chance points, 21-11.
“They just destroyed us on the O-boards,” Oats said. “The story of the game was 17 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points. ... They out-toughed us in our own gym, which is hard to deal with, to take a loss when you had a lead for most of the game.”
Bearden’s absence left UB with only three available guards, and Oats didn’t want to use them all on the court at the same time for extended stretches.
“I don’t want to say it killed us, because we should have had the win,” Oats said. “But it certainly did not help at all. It’s disappointing he’s going to be out some games here because he had been playing really well up to this point.”
No Bearden meant junior Blake Hamilton had to play a lot more small forward (the 3 spot) than power forward (the 4 spot), which is his best position.
“He’s got mismatches when he’s at the 4, because no real 4 men in our league can guard him,” Oats said. “Without Bearden in the lineup, it screws the whole rotation up. He’s gotta play a ton of 3.”
The loss snapped the Bulls’ four-game win streak and dropped them to 14-10 overall and 7-4 in the Mid-American Conference. UB is tied for second with Kent State, two games behind first-place Akron (9-2). Toledo, Ohio, Central Michigan and Ball State all stand 6-5.
UB plays host to Ohio on Friday night and visits Akron on Tuesday.
Freshman guard CJ Massinburg played a lot of minutes in place of Bearden and did well, scoring 12 points. But he cut his mouth on a flying elbow with about nine minutes to play and sat out about five minutes to get stitches.
UB’s lineup options also were limited because Hamilton and forwards David Kadiri and Ikenna Smart all had four fouls with nine minutes left.
UB did a good job on Toledo center Nathan Boothe. He scored 11 points, 8.5 under his season average. Williams, averaging 18 a game, had only three at halftime but came alive late.
He hit a three-pointer with 39 seconds left to tie it. Then UB had a disjointed possession, which ended with Massinburg missing a 16-footer with 12 seconds left.
“My shot wasn’t falling the first half, but I was feeling it after I hit two threes,” Williams said. “I knew I was going to take the last shot. The basket was looking bigger. I called an isolation. Nate Navigato set me a screen and I took it to the basket, made a good play.”
Hamilton had all 10 of his points in the first half. It was the fourth straight game he finished with at least four fouls.
“I’ve got to play smarter and keep myself out of situations where I pick up fouls,” he said.