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UB fades away in Akron

AKRON, Ohio -- Too many turnovers, not enough points.

It's becoming a simple and all-too-familiar tale for the University at Buffalo. With its offense sputtering, UB has quietly slipped out of the race in the Mid-American Conference's East Division.

UB was down by double digits for the final 22 minutes of Wednesday's 75-61 loss to first-place Akron before 2,815 in Rhodes Arena. The Bulls were done in by 20 turnovers that turned into 28 Akron points and have fallen four games out of the MAC East lead with eight to play.

The Bulls slipped to 15-6 overall and 5-5 in the Mid-American Conference, fifth in the East. Akron (16-4, 9-1) stayed even with Kent State for first place as the Golden Flashes posted a 73-60 win at Ohio. Akron, which has won 14 straight home games, hosts Kent here Saturday.

"They play really well together, really complement each other well," said UB coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "I can see why they're so successful."

UB has averaged just 56.5 points and 19 turnovers in its last two games, losses at Kent and Akron. Wednesday's game was the fifth straight that UB has committed at least 17 miscues.

The Bulls hit 22 of 50 from the field and only 3 of 11 from three-point range. Yassin Idbihi led UB with 16 points while Calvin Cage had 14. But Cage, UB's leading scorer, had seven turnovers and scored just two points in the second half.

Cage was 0 for 3 from three-point range, the first time this year he hasn't connected from beyond the arc.

"He's a big-time shooter and we knew we had to get a hand up on him," said Akron guard Dru Joyce.

The teams were even through 10 minutes but the game changed for good when Cage picked up his second foul on a charging call. He missed five minutes in the second half after picking up his fourth foul and fouled out with 2:50 to go.

"We are going to struggle if we get out of our real rotation of players," Witherspoon said. "It's not that the people we need to play a lot played well tonight. But if we get outside that group, it will be a struggle."

Forward Romeo Travis led Akron with 15 points while guards Joyce and Nick Dials had 13 points apiece, combining to go 5 of 6 from three-point range and splitting 10 assists. Sophomore Cedrick Middleton, the younger brother of UB senior Rod Middleton, scored all 12 of his points off the bench in the first half. Rod Middleton had seven points.

"Ced comes with unbelievable energy every time he plays Buffalo," said Akron coach Keith Dambrot. "It's like he's a million-dollar man."

The game's key run came immediately after Cage's second foul as Joyce, Dials and Cedrick Middleton hit three-pointers in a 9-2 run that gave Akron a 25-18 lead. Akron then used a 9-0 run to help forge a 40-27 halftime lead.

It began on Darryl Peterson's controversial putback with 2:31 left -- which came after he rebounded a clanked free throw by Matt Futch that clearly missed the rim and should have been whistled as a violation. Witherspoon protested to all three officials and couldn't find a sympathetic ear. Agitated the rest of the night by that non-call, Witherspoon finally got hit with a technical foul with 5:30 left.

The Zips hit four free throws to push their lead to 21.

UB tries to recover Saturday night against Miami (Ohio) in Alumni Arena.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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