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UB men pick bad time to lose to last-place Miami

The University at Buffalo’s weaknesses were exposed at an inopportune time Tuesday night. The Bulls lost their regular-season home finale to Miami University, 67-59, at Alumni Arena.

The Bulls are not a strong perimeter shooting team and don’t have an effective low-post presence. Miami packed in its zone defense and slowed down the pace of the game, preventing UB from getting points in transition.

The result was UB’s lowest offensive output in three months.

UB coach Nate Oats was not happy.

“We’ve got to get some guys to step up and be leaders,” Oats said. “We didn’t have a very good practice going into the game. Guys just are not taking both ends of the floor as seriously as we should.”

The loss dropped UB from fourth to sixth place in the Mid-American Conference and likely cost the Bulls a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. UB fell to 16-14 overall and 9-8 in the MAC. UB would have to win its regular-season finale at Bowling Green Friday and have numerous other results go its way to get back into the top four.

More likely, UB will be playing a first-round home game Monday against the 11th or 12th-place MAC finisher.

Miami, which opened the MAC season 0-6, won its third straight and improved to 12-18 overall and 6-11 in the MAC. The RedHawks beat Akron (12-5) and Kent State (10-7) last week thanks largely to a defense that ranks second in the MAC in points allowed.

UB settled for too many perimeter shots. The Bulls average 20.6 three-point attempts a game. They attempted 31 three-pointers and made just 10 (32.3 percent).

“The ball never moved,” Oats said. “It was just one on one. Next guy one on one. Next guy one on one. That’s not how we play when we play well.”

UB got outscored in the paint, 32-22. The Bulls’ big men (Ikenna Smart, Nick Perkins and David Kadiri), who average 16.2 ppg, combined for five points and took just four shots.

“We got no production inside tonight, but we haven’t gotten great production all year from inside,” Oats said. “So we’ve got to find different ways to do it. And we have found a way. When we play hard on defense and move the ball on offense, we’re a pretty good team.”

UB got 20 points and 13 rebounds from junior Blake Hamilton. Senior Jarryn Skeete had 11 but was just 3 of 12 shooting. Lamonte Bearden had seven assists and one turnover but was 1 of 5 from three-point range. CJ Massinburg had four points and was 1 of 6. Rodell Wigginton was 0 for 7.

Oats said Monday’s sub-par practice set a bad tone.

“Our offensive side of the ball wasn’t great in practice yesterday, either,” he said. “It’s hard this time of the year. You don’t have a ton of practices, you’re trying to save legs, you got one day prep. And our one day prep wasn’t great, and it showed in the game.”

Miami, which plays at the slowest tempo in the MAC, executed its game plan. The RedHawks held UB to just six fast-break points.

“They’re best when they’re going downhill and they’re playing the game from two” point range, said coach John Cooper. “Do you want them to take threes? Maybe you do, yes. But you don’t want them to take open threes.”

“We didn’t move the ball that well tonight,” Hamilton said. “When we were moving them from the left side to the right side and getting penetration, we got to the basket. It was on us if we were going to finish or not and we struggled tonight.”

A crowd of 4,798 observed a moment of silence before the game for UB football player Solomon Jackson, who died on Monday. Oats said none of the basketball players knew Jackson.

“We talked about it at shoot-around today a little bit, just to let them know there’s counseling for their friends if need be.” Oats said. “I don’t think that had anything to do with our players’ efforts tonight.”

Oats said assistant coach Donyell Marshall discussed life’s uncertainty with the team after the game. UB assistant Jim Whitesell lost a brother in December. The mother of UB freshman Nikola Rakicevic died last month.

“Donyell talked about it after the game,” Oats said. “Life’s not guaranteed. You’re not guaranteed another game. You’re not guaranteed another day. Coach Whitesell’s brother passed away. Nikola’s mother passed away this year. We had Solomon. My wife’s going through the cancer deal. You’re not guaranteed anything. We just tried to impress upon these guys, while you’re here you’ve got this opportunity. You blow a knee out, your career might be done. Why don’t you play hard every practice, every game? And we didn’t do it today.”