MAC SEMIFINAL: UB 68, AKRON 59
How UB won: The Bulls had about 45 percent of the real Justin Moss due to his ankle injury but won anyway thanks to an all-out assault on the offensive glass. UB outrebounded Akron overall, 47-35, and beat the Zips on the offensive boards, 17-5. UB outscored Akron on second-chance points, 20-4. Moss managed only five points in 23 minutes.
What it means: UB plays Central Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2 for a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament. It’s UB’s third MAC title game in its 17 years in the conference.
Player of the game: Senior forward Xavier Moss had 17 points and 11 rebounds. He had a thunderous rebound jam to pull UB within 23-22 early. Then he was big early in the second half. He crashed hard for a rebound put-back to put UB up, 37-32, and got a layup off a pretty feed from Lamonte Bearden to make it 39-37.
Said X-Man: “My mindset was just to get to the offensive glass and use my athleticism to run. I know they played four straight games and they might be a little tired so I knew that if my guards got to the hoop and just put the ball up there soft, anything around the rim I was going to get it.”
Supporting stars: Shannon Evans had 14, Rodell Wigginton 11 and Bearden 10.
Turning point: Senior forward Will Regan hit an open three from the upper wing to give UB the lead for good, 52-49, with 5:06 left.
Effort award: Wigginton charged to the rim for a third-chance shot, missed, got the rebound and scored on the fourth try of the possession to give UB a 56-49 lead with 3:00 left.
Stat check: Live by the 3 and die by the 3. Akron heaved 47.5 percent of its shots from three-point range this year, fifth most in the nation. The Zips hit just 7 of 30 behind the arc. Credit good UB perimeter defense, too.
Hurley Analysis: “They do a great job of getting into our shooters, and there weren’t a ton of clean looks. There might have been a couple in the second half that I thought were open that we didn’t capitalize on. They get into you, they pressure you, they extend their defense. They get a little bit spread out, so that’s where we were able to get into the lane with our guards driving some. That forced some help, which then enabled us to get to the offensive glass.”
Highlight plays: 1. Ford’s monster jam to make it 23-22. 2. Bearden’s coast-to-coast fast-break layup to make it 26-23. 3. Wigginton’s extra-effort putback at 56-49. 4. Evans’ hanging bank shot to make it 41-34.
Non-highlight play: With 17.2 seconds left and UB up, 66-57, Evans had a wide-open fast break and lobbed a pass off the backboard for trailing Ford, who had to hang on the rim to make the dunk. Technical foul. It was the right call. Akron made two free throws but missed an ensuing three-pointer.
“I was trying to get on SportsCenter,” Evans admitted.
Ford took the blame for not cleanly making the dunk.
Up next: UB lost twice to Central Michigan, and both were good games, 84-73, and 75-74. Can UB win with a limited Moss. Don’t bet on it. However, Central isn’t as big up front as Akron. So UB can go with smaller lineup combinations, which could help its offense.