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No. 25 Buffalo clings to ranking heading to Akron

Buffalo, which hung on in the rankings on Monday at No. 25, will play a pair of road games this week, the first being against Akron on Tuesday.

Buffalo (20-3, 8-2 MAC) will also play at Toledo on Friday.

The Bulls, following a 92-88 loss at Bowling Green on Feb. 1, had eight days to stew over that defeat and seemed on the verge of stewing over their first losing streak of the season when visiting Central Michigan took a 32-14 lead in the first half on Saturday.

But with third-leading scorer and leading rebounder Nick Perkins sitting out the first half for a violation of team rules, the Bulls quickly restored order.

Buffalo rallied to pull within five at halftime and then dominated Central Michigan in the second half to earn a 90-76 win as it heads for a more routine schedule in the coming days.

"I thought we were really good (Saturday) after those first 12 minutes," Buffalo head coach Nate Oats after the Central Michigan win. "After that initial charge by them, we got back to playing that blue-collar brand of basketball that has won us a lot of games this year."

Buffalo, which dropped two spots in this week's poll, is ranked for the 14th consecutive week.

If there is one concern for the Bulls, it's the health of senior guard and leading scorer C.J. Massinburg, who is battling a shoulder injury.

Massinburg was scoreless in the first half against Central Michigan, but rebounded in the second half to score 18 points. He is averaging 18.4 points this season.

"It was definitely killing me," Massinburg told the Buffalo News. "When you know that you're a guy that will lay your whole body out there for the team, and nothing is going your way, it definitely hurt me. But I just tried to stay positive through it and encourage my teammates."

Akron (14-9, 6-4) is in third place in the MAC East standings, two games behind Bowling Green and Buffalo.

The Zips are playing their best basketball of the season, having won four of their last five games and coming off a 72-53 home win over Kent State last Friday.

Coached by former Ohio University and Illinois coach John Groce, the Zips have renewed themselves thanks to an improved defense.

The Zips enter leading the MAC in scoring defense at 62.0 points per game.

"It's our guys," Groce said in the Akron Beacon Journal.

"They've really bought into how we defend, the scheme that we play, how we do scouting. It takes great sacrifice to play really hard and play really together in that way for 40 minutes."

Offensively, Akron is a balanced squad that has four players averaging in double-figures -- junior Daniel Utomi (13.9 points per game), sophomore Loren Cristian Jackson (13.4), senior Jimond Ivey (13.3) and junior Tyler Cheese (10.3).

The game will be the first of two meetings in a span of two weeks between the Bulls and the Zips. The rematch will be held Feb. 26 at Buffalo.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 11, 2019

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