BUFFALO, NY – The force was with the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York men's basketball team on Tuesday evening as the Bulls returned home in front of a packed student crowd on Star Wars Night and defeated the Ball State Cardinals, 76-64. The win was UB's third in its last four games as the Bulls improve to 11-9 on the season and 4-3 in MAC play.
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively as the Cardinals held an 11-6 advantage eight minutes into the game, which turned out to be their largest lead of the night. Ball State continued to lead 13-10 with 9:26 remaining when the Bulls went on a 14-0 run over the next five minutes to take a 24-13 advantage. Sophomore Lamonte Bearden and freshman Nikola Rakicevic each finished with four points during the run. Ball State went on to score the final five points of the half, including a dunk at the buzzer, as UB took a 31-29 lead into the break.
UB regained a double-digit advantage with 12:16 remaining on a jumper by freshman Nick Perkins as the Bulls went ahead 47-37. The Bulls led by 12 with 10:38 left when Ball State went on a 13-4 run to pull within a single possession at 56-53 with seven minutes left.
It remained a one possession lead for the Bulls with 5:49 left when the Bulls answered with a 9-1 run, which sealed the game for UB. The final points on the run came on a fast-break three-point play from Bearden off a pass by senior Jarryn Skeete.
"That was a win we needed in a bad way if we are going to stay in this conference race. The coaches knew it and the players knew it," said head coach Nate Oats. "I thought our energy was a 100% better than it was on Saturday and I thought we made them miss threes because of our energy on the defensive end."
Bearden finished with a game-high 18 points, while adding six assists and four steals. Junior Blake Hamilton added 14 points and nine rebounds, again just missing a double-double. Skeete added 12 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while junior Willie Conner also finished with 12 points.
The Bulls shots 47.3% from the floor and turned the ball over just 11 times, while forcing Ball State into 19 turnovers, which was tied for their second highest total this season. The UB defense also held the Cardinals to just 22.2% from three-point range, which tied a season low for them.
Ball State's three leading scorers in Mid-American Conference play entering tonight were held to a combined 11 points.
The Bulls return to the road on Saturday night when they face Toledo at 7:00 pm at Savage Arena.