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UB men's basketball squanders early second-half lead in loss to Bowling Green

Jayvon Graves was noncommittal when asked if he thought he was fouled. Instead, Graves lamented the fact that he missed a free throw that could have sent the game to overtime in the final seconds of the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team’s 78-77 loss to Bowling Green.

Friday at Alumni Arena, the junior guard fielded an inbounds pass from the baseline from Davonta Jordan with 4.9 seconds left in regulation. Graves slipped at the top of the key, but somehow controlled the ball, and after he quickly regained his footing, Bowling Green’s Caleb Fields leaped to defend Graves and smothered his shot as the guard went to the floor before the buzzer sounded.

“We drew up the right play,” Graves said. “I just slipped and tried to get up, and just shot it and what happened? I missed.”

If Graves thought there was a foul, he didn’t flat-out say so. He’d cut Bowling Green’s 78-74 lead to two with 44 seconds left on a layup off a turnover by the Falcons, and with seven seconds left, went to the free-throw line after he was fouled by Bowling Green’s Matiss Kulackovskis.

Graves missed the back end of a pair of free throws, which would have tied the game at 78-78.

“I think there was some contact there (on the last shot), but I think I should have made the free throw before that,” Graves said.

Graves led all scorers with 24 points, and UB coach Jim Whitesell hoped to squeeze one last play out of Graves in the final seconds.

“We thought Jayvon would get downhill, and he’d just came up with a big play before,” Whitesell said. “Unfortunately, he slipped, and, whatever, the official, whatever it is, you never know what the call is. It is what it is, and you live with it.

“We kind of felt good about the set and the play. It happens there.”

But the final seconds of regulation weren’t the culprit for the Bulls (14-8, 5-4 Mid-American Conference). UB squandered an 11-point lead at the start of the second half against the Falcons (17-5, 8-1), who lead the MAC East Division and who extended their winning streak to eight games.

Trailing 47-36 less than 90 seconds into the second half, the Falcons started catching up by using an 8-0 run that came as a result of four turnovers by the Bulls, including a turnover by Ronaldo Segu that set up Caleb Fields’ layup. That made it 47-44 three minutes into the second half and forced the Bulls to call a timeout.

“They punched us, out of the gate,” said Jordan, who had nine points, seven rebounds and five blocks. “Offensive-wise, we were still scoring but there was a time where we didn’t score, they’d come down and score and they’d end up getting the momentum. Once they got the momentum, they started scoring, at will, and we didn’t have an answer for them until we called a timeout.”

Then, 3:45 into the second half, Justin Turner (23 points) cut it to 47-46, off a defensive rebound by the Falcons, and Daequon Plowden’s 3-pointer gave the Falcons a 49-47 lead. In what became an 11-0 run by the Falcons, the Bulls committed four turnovers (they had five in the first half) and Bowling Green grabbed three defensive rebounds.

The Bulls and the Falcons traded leads 10 times in a span of less than nine minutes, but trailing 74-72 in the final 2:05, Jordan and Jeenathan Williams (14 points) missed the front end of a pair of 1-and-1 opportunities on free throws, and Kulackovskis made a pair of free throws with 1:51 left to give Bowling Green a 76-72 lead. Graves’ layup cut Bowling Green’s lead to two 10 seconds later, but Josh Mballa (12 points, 15 rebounds) fouled out with 1:19 left, and Dylan Frye (17 points) made both free throws to open the Falcons’ lead to 78-74.

“The only thing I’m disappointed with are the first four minutes of the second half,” Whitesell said. “I was really disappointed with that. We talked about that, at length, and we came out there and we didn’t play with the ball movement or the defensive intensity they did. They really came out like we’ve been doing, the first four minutes. That’s a big part of winning.

“We lost that cushion we have, and we’ve got to learn from that.”

Bona, UB head to the Virgin Islands

St. Bonaventure announced Friday that the men’s basketball team will play in the Paradise Jam, Nov. 20-23 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Bonnies join UB as part of an eight-team field that also includes Bradley, Cleveland State, Colorado State, FIU, Long Beach State and Weber State.

The Bonnies play in the Paradise Jam for the first time since 2002, when it lost to BYU in the championship game after defeating Michigan and Virginia Tech.

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