Two realities emerged from the University of Akron basketball team’s game against host Buffalo at Alumni Arena on Wednesday night.
First, there are moral victories.
The Zips lost to the Bulls 96-90, UA’s fifth consecutive loss at Buffalo.
But the way they lost engenders a heaping dose of respect for a team that came in with just nine players in uniform and lost another — sophomore wingman Jake Kretzer — to an injury midway through the second half.
Despite those hindrances, the Zips rallied from a 14-point deficit and came within two points of tying the game at 77-75 with 6:13 left.
Unfortunately, they still came up short.
Akron forward Demetrius Treadwell led the Zips (17-9, 9-4 Mid-American Conference) with 21 points and seven rebounds.
Zips point guard Nyles Evans broke out of a funk to add 18 points, a career high as a Zip that included four 3-pointers.
Forward Javon McCrea led the Bulls (15-8, 9-4) with 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Jarod Oldman followed with 18 points.
But as much praise as the Zips deserve for gutting out the game, it’s all they could do after digging themselves a huge hole in the first half with porous defense that allowed Buffalo to shoot 68 percent.
The Bulls scored with UA playing tight man-to-man defense and zone. The Bulls took control because of their ability to get easy cuts to the hoop and dunks.
UA only stayed in the game because it shot 55 percent in the first half.
The Bulls shot 63 percent from the floor for the game, a surprising feat considering that UA came into the game having held its past four opponents to fewer than 60 points per game.
As for the Zips’ other reality: The MAC is going to be an uphill struggle for the rest of the season and the room for error just got a little narrower for the Zips to grab one of the double byes in the MAC Tournament in March.
The Bulls were just one game behind the Zips for the lead in the MAC’s East Division. Now they stand tied and Ohio is right behind.
However, with both of those teams still having to play at Rhodes Arena, winning the division remains in the Zips’ hands.
As for tournament positioning, they will need to help themselves and possibly get assistance from others.