Bulls rebound against Central Michigan

Buffalo comes back from 18-point deficit


UB men’s basketball came back from an 18-point deficit to defeat Central Michigan 90-76 on Saturday. The Bulls, without senior Nick Perkins for the first half, struggled to find their offensive rhythm before outscoring the Chippewas 52-33 in the second half.

Buffalo (20-3, 8-2 Mid-American Conference) reached the 20-win mark for the eighth time in school history. The Bulls have reached the mark in four of the past five seasons and won MAC Championships in three of the past four. Senior guard CJ Massinburg was held scoreless in the first half, while senior forward Jeremy Harris carried the load on offense.

“I thought we were really good today after those first 12 minutes,” said head coach Nate Oats. “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.”

Central Michigan (16-7, 5-5 MAC) came into the game as the second-highest scoring team in the conference, averaging 84.7 points per game. Buffalo averaged a program record 84.8 ppg, the 12th highest in the country this season.

The Chippewas came out of the gate determined to be the first team to defeat Buffalo at home in 21 games. The fourth-largest attendance of 6,437 fans in Alumni Arena almost walked away disappointed. Buffalo was down 32-14 just 12 minutes into the game.

Harris sparked a 24-6 Bulls run with a three-pointer and Buffalo showed why it is the No. 23 team in the country. In six minutes, UB erased the deficit and capped it off with a dunk from sophomore guard Jayvon Graves and a three from senior Montell McRae to tie the game at 38.

The Chippewas scored the final five points of the half and ended the first with a 43-38 lead.

But Buffalo was without one of its best players. Senior forward Nick Perkins was suspended in the first half for a minor team violation. Oats had an assistant coach “barking” in his ear to play Perkins when they were down 18, but decided to give his other players a chance.

The Bulls, with Perkins back on the floor, were able to dominate the paint and give them the edge they needed.

“He's one of the league's best,” said Central Michigan head coach Keno Davis. “He’s the sixth man of the year, deservingly, but he's a starter with his minutes. Part of the reason Buffalo is a Top-25 team is that they have guys coming off the bench that are all-conference players. To be able to have him in their rotation gave them a great lift.”

Buffalo, which has tried to be more defensive according to Oats, got back to its brand of basketball in the second half. The Bulls forced 23 turnovers in the game which translated into 30 points.

“Our team defense was much better than how we played at Bowling Green,” Massinburg said. “At Bowling Green, we just wanted to focus on stopping our man but one thing that we have really been stressing this week that they're scoring on the whole team, it's all of our faults. Today, we had each other's backs.”

Central Michigan’s leading scorer Larry Austin Jr. was held to eight points and fouled out in only 23 minutes of play. He and Shawn Roundtree combined for 15 of the Chippewas’ 23 turnovers.

Harris had the best all-around performance of his season with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Massinburg found his scoring touch in the second half with 18 points. He was 4-7 from three. Senior guard Dontay Caruthers had 16 points and four steals and Perkins let his presence be known with 10 points and six rebounds playing nearly the entire second half.

The Bulls will play their next two games on the road at Akron and Toledo. Their next matchup against Akron will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.