It was an offensive showcase Wednesday night in Alumni Arena, as Akron and the Buffalo combined to shoot 57 percent from the floor in the Bull's 96-90 win over the Zips. With the win, Buffalo moved into a tie with Akron atop the Eastern division.
Buffalo forward Javon McCrae just missed recording his first triple-double of the season (and what would have been the first in program history), as he scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out eight assists. Buffalo guard Joshua Freelove and Akron forward Demertrius Treadwell led all scorers with 21 apiece.
It was the Bulls who came out red-hot in the first half, taking an early 4-0 lead on baskets from Feelove and McCrea. While it took Akron nearly three minutes to record its first bucket, the Zips soon caught fire themselves.
Trailing 20-15 mid-way through the first half, the Zips used a Jake Kretzer 3-pointer as the catalyst for a 7-0 run. But, not to be outdone, the Bulls responded with three straight 3-pointers from Will Regan, Freelove and Shannon Evans to regain the lead. From that point on, it was an offensive free-for-all for the remainder of the half.
Both teams shot above 50 percent from the floor and from behind the arc. They also combined for 10 3-pointers, with Akron's Nyles Evans leading the way with three. McCrea came dangerously close to recording a single half double-double, as he lead all players with 14 points and eight rebounds. He scored four points in the final minute to give Buffalo its largest lead of the game heading into the locker room, 48-42.
The Bulls continued to pour it on in the beginning of the second half. After Akron's Isaiah Johnson opened second-half scoring, the Zips didn't score again until the 16:30 mark. Two layups by Jarod Oldham and a Freelove 3-pointer gave Buffalo what seemed to be an insurmountable 12-point lead.
But Akron didn't go away. The Zips began to chip away at the Bull's lead, thanks to Treadwell's offensive dominance and solid free throw shooting. With six minutes remaining, Johnson cut the lead to five with a nifty wraparound layup and the foul. The Bulls couldn't handle the rebound off the missed foul attempt, and Nyles Evans made them pay with one of his four 3-pointers making it a two-point game.
But Akron couldn't hold the momentum. After their five-point possession, the Zips went scoreless for two minutes, allowing Buffalo to build its lead back up to 10 with a minute remaining.
The win was Buffalo's fifth straight over Akron at Alumni Arena. The teams meet again in Akron on March 4, in a game that could have major tournament seeding implications.
Akron's Jake Kretzer was injured battling for a rebound with 11:30 remaining in the game. He took an accidental elbow to the head, and left the game with a bloody lip. He didn't return.
Buffalo travels to Kent State on Saturday for a 12 p.m. game, while Akron travels back home to take on Ohio at 6 p.m..