BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball
team defeated Akron, 78-65, in a rematch of the 2009 Mid-American
Conference championship game. With the win, the Bulls improved to
3-0 in MAC play for the first time since joining the conference in
Rodney Pierce tied a career-high with 31 points to become the first player in the Bulls' Division I history to score 20 or more points in eight straight games. Pierce shot 4-of-5 from the three-point line and 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He also added four of the Bulls' season-high 13 steals.
Sean Smiley, who was the hero in Thursday night's win at Bowling Green, added 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He was a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. The senior guard had a career-best five steals.
The game was knotted at 27 late in the first half before the Bulls closed the half on a 13-0 scoring run to take a 40-27 lead into the locker room.
The Bulls built on their momentum to start the second half and a basket and free throw by Pierce put UB ahead, 49-32, with 14:42 remaining. The 17-point advantage was Buffalo's largest of the game.
However, the Zips responded with a 9-0 scoring run to quickly cut the deficit to eight with 12:16 left. But Smiley quieted Akron by scoring six straight points, capped by a steal and breakaway layup to put the Bulls ahead, 55-41.
Akron (12-5, 2-1 MAC) whittled the lead to six with 6:02 left, before Smiley struck again. John Boyer found a streaking Smiley on a backdoor cut for a reverse layup to give the Bulls an eight-point lead. From there, it was Pierce's turn to take over. The senior guard hit a three and a driving layup to help the Bulls regain a 13-point advantage and put the game on ice.
Max Boudreau scored 10 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
"It was hard-fought game. Akron is a very physical team," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "I thought once we got through the initial onslaught of their defense, we were able to get some movement and get them spread out a little bit. We didn't slow down. We kept moving the ball and kept moving bodies and I think the big thing was that today we had a better defensive effort."
The Bulls improved to 10-4 overall and 3-0 in the conference to sit alone atop the MAC East Division.
Buffalo will travel to Kent State for the first of two straight road games on Wednesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm.