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UB men rally but can't get past Eastern Michigan

Trailing most of the way, once by as many as 11 points, the University at Buffalo rallied for a late lead, but lost its Mid-American Conference men’s basketball game to last-place Eastern Michigan, 66-62, on Tuesday night in Ypsilanti, Mich.

The Bulls led by four points, 55-51, after a pair of free throws by Gabe Grant with 5:56 left before their poor outside shooting and failure to take care of the ball caught up with them again.

Derek Ballard, who entered the game when 7-foot center Boubacar Toure fouled out, scored with a rebound, was fouled and made the free throw to give the Eagles a 56-55 lead. A 3-pointer by Davonta Jordan gave UB a tie at 58-all but the Bulls were to trail the rest of the way after a steal and layup for a traditional three-point play by Ty Groce gave Eastern the lead for good, 61-58, with 3:41 left. Ballard scored with a rebound to make it 63-58.

UB got a huge break when Antwain Johnson was fouled while making a 3-pointer and converted the four-point play to cut the margin to one with 1:10 left. However the Bulls gave up a layup by Darion Spottswood with 42 seconds to go and were unable to convert on three trips the other way.

A strong performance by Josh Mballa went to waste. The 6-7 sophomore came off the bench again and led the Bulls with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Grant had 10 points and Jayvon Graves had 10 rebounds from his guard position.

Mballa got Toure into foul trouble. The EMU center played only 22 minutes. His replacement, Ballard, had five points and five rebounds in only 7 minutes.

UB made only 5 of 28 3-pointers, 3 for 14 in the second half. The Bulls had 17 turnovers, 10 in the second half. The five UB starters scored only 26 points and made 10 of 37 field goal attempts, just 4 of 19 3-pointers.

Groce led Eastern (12-10, 2-7 MAC) with 14 points while Spottsville and Thomas Binelli had 11 each. Binelli’s points all came in the first half.

UB 14-9, 5-5 MAC) has a tough assignment at home on Friday against West Division MAC leader Central Michigan at 9 p.m. at Alumni Arena.

Wednesday’s game
St. Bonaventure will look for a season sweep of George Washington when it takes on the Colonials on Wednesday night at 7 in the Reilly Center.

The Bonnies opened their Atlantic 10 Conference schedule with a 71-66 victory over GW a month ago at the Smith Center in Washington, D.C. Indications are the Colonials will be tougher to beat the second time around. They’ve gone 4-2 after opening with three straight conference losses. One of the wins was a 107-104 victory at home over Davidson in four overtimes.

GW starts three freshman including Jameer Nelson Jr., son of the former Saint Joseph’s guard and NBA player, and is in its first season under coach Jamion Christian after his one season at Siena, where he turned the Saints’ fortunes around in just one season.

After losing three games without sophomore center Osun Osunniyi, Bona has won its last two and is one of five teams tied for third place in the A-10 standings at 6-3. Osunniyi scored 20 points with nine rebounds in the earlier game against GW.

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