Buffalo clinches regular-season championship
Bulls beat Ohio 82-79
Back to back.
The No. 19 UB Bulls claimed the Mid-American Conference regular-season title for the second-straight season as they defeated Ohio 82-79 Tuesday night.
The Bulls basketball team (27-3, 15-2 MAC) has won eight-straight games with its last loss against Bowling Green on Feb. 1. Buffalo has now tied the school record in wins for a season and the most in MAC play. Last year’s Bulls squad set both records. The Bulls have one more game left this week before hitting the road to Cleveland for the MAC tournament.
"[I] give Ohio a lot of credit. They came ready to play tonight and gave us all we could handle," said head coach Nate Oats. “I was happy with the way we shot the ball in the first half, but I wasn't particularly pleased with our defensive effort, which we need to improve on before Friday. With that being said, I am extremely proud of this group for everything they have accomplished so far this year. Winning the regular season was just one of our goals for this season and I am happy for the guys in our locker room.”
The Bulls’ victory on Tuesday night wasn’t as easy as the last time. Buffalo beat Ohio by 47 points when the teams played two weeks ago. It is the largest margin of victory they’ve had this season.
UB seemed like it was on its way to another 47-point victory but sloppy plays kept the Bobcats close.
The Bulls hit 12 shots in the first half and 11 were 3-pointers. Junior guard Davonta Jordan led the way with four 3-pointers just nine minutes, tying his career high. Jordan didn’t score another point the rest of the game.
Sophomore guard Jayvon Graves gave Buffalo its largest advantage of the first half 39-29 with three and two free throws from senior forward Jeremy Harris would give Buffalo a 41-35 lead into halftime.
Ohio quickly closed in on the Bulls after the half, pulling within two points with 15:47 remaining. Freshman guard Ronaldo Segu and senior forward Montell McRae put UB back up by eight with more threes.
Senior forward Nick Perkins and Harris traded buckets to build Buffalo’s lead up to 12 points with less than 10 minutes remaining.
But the Bulls went cold momentarily, and Ohio took advantage. The Bobcats dominated Buffalo inside with a series of layups and dunks to make it a one-point game with 5:32 left, 63-62.
Senior guard CJ Massinburg, who had been quiet all night, had to step up. Ohio fouled the senior and he sank two free throws to bring Buffalo back up by three and a Harris jumper made it a four-point game with Ohio missing one of two free throws in between.
Massinburg, who shoots a team-high 78.1 percent from the free throw line, attempted 10 foul shots in the final minute of the game. He made seven. Massinburg scored 10 of his 17 points over the final three minutes.
Massinburg missed his final two foul shots, but the Bulls were able to hold on as Ohio wasn’t able to attempt a desperation heave with so little time remaining.
The Bulls’ 3-point shooting did not sustain through halftime as Buffalo made 4-14 in the second, compared to 11-20 in the first.
Harris led the Bulls with 20 points, Graves added 10 and Perkins had 17 to round out the top scorers.
The Bulls conclude the regular season on Friday when they host Bowling Green and try for a school-record 28th win. Bowling Green defeated the Bulls 92-88 last time. The game is sold-out and begins at 6 p.m.
Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.