Falcons can’t fight off Buffalo

Ordered by its coach to put up a fight, the BGSU men’s team clawed – and even antagonized – its way into Buffalo’s commanding lead.

But the last blow thrown by the Falcons was just a little too strong – by mere inches.

Martin Samarco’s open three-point look at the buzzer hit back iron and the Falcons were dealt another crushing league defeat last night, 76-73. It was Buffalo’s first win ever at Anderson Arena.

“I told the kids at halftime I’m not going down without a fight,” said BG coach Dan Dakich. “And we fought, but unfortunately for us, we weren’t able to overcome Buffalo.”

The Falcons’ last three losses have all been decided by one possession. They are now 7-10 overall and 3-4 in the MAC. Buffalo, which was the Falcon’s first of four straight MAC East opponents, improves to 14-4 (4-3).

The Falcons cut the lead to 73-70 on a 3 by Mawel Soler with 30 seconds remaining before a technical foul sent Buffalo’s Justin Cage to the free-throw line. After Cage split the pair, BG got off a quick shot as an unbalanced Martin Samarco hit a 3 from the right wing to make the score 74-73.

BG’s Moon Robinson then fouled Cage, who made both attempts from the line with :10 left. Without a timeout remaining to draw up a final play, the Falcons looked for Samarco whose good look from atop the key sailed just long.

“That’s a pretty good look for Samarco,” said BGSU guard John Floyd, who nearly got an assist on the shot. “Without having a timeout, I think that’s probably as good of a look as you’re going to get.”

The way Samarco was shooting, it’s probably a surprise it didn’t go down. He scored a game-high 30 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range.

“A straight on look with him making 6-of-9, what the heck,” Dakich said. “I thought he drilled it, it was just a little bit too hard.”

With a little more fortune, the Falcons could be 6-1 in the conference and not in last place. But in all four league losses, the Falcons were out-rebounded – and last night was certainly not an exception.

The Bulls grabbed 35 boards to a measly 20 by BG. When the Falcons needed stops late in the game, Buffalo routinely came down with rebounds off their own missed shots.

“I think it was a question of us turning the ball over a lot [30 times] and whether we could make up for it by getting rebounds,” said Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon.

Buffalo, with a +3.4 margin, is the best rebounding team in the MAC. BGSU, contrarily, is last.

“I thought in the last four minutes our problem was we were getting stops, but we gave them too many offensive rebounds,” Floyd said. “We have to come up with those rebounds in close games.”

The Falcons couldn’t grab boards, but they did rebound – so to speak – to start the second half. Trailing by 14, the Falcons saw their deficit continually dwindle as seldom-used Patrick Phillips came off the bench to play stiff defense on Buffalo’s leading scorer Calvin Cage. Cage led the Bulls with 24 points, but looked very pedestrian when being checked by Phillips, who also scored four points in 10 minutes.

“I thought Pat was great,” Dakich said. “I got tired of watching all the other guys come in there and look scared. He came in and was fantastic, and I’m really happy for him.”

BGSU finally made it a two possession game when Floyd made six points in a span of 28 seconds, the last three coming on a 3-pointer with 13:09 remaining.

But Buffalo scored the game’s next eight points, pushing its lead to 10 with 10:14 to play.

A huge break was sent the Falcon’s way with 1:25 left when Mario Jordan simultaneously committed an intentional foul and a technical foul.

Samarco made both free throws for the technical, and Soler, who had a career-high 19 points, connected on both for the intentional, knifing the Bulls’ lead to 70-67. But BGSU turned the ball over on the inbound pass and found itself down six with :40 remaining.

“I was really proud of our guys the way they battled, but when we don’t come out and play [in the first half] the way we’re capable of playing…we get beat,” Dakich said.