In the first round of the MAC Tournament, the No. 12 seed Miami (OH) Red Hawks upset the No. 5 seed Bulls, 85-79.
After the Bulls started the game up 8-0, the Red Hawks stormed back and took a 49-39 lead into the half, led by junior guard Nike Sibande’s 23 first-half points. Sibande ultimately earned 31 points, leading the Red Hawks past the Bulls.
The highlight play of the day came about three minutes into the game when Jeenathan Williams grabbed the rebound and dunked it in one motion, electrifying the crowd.
The first half was back-and-forth until the Red Hawks pulled away in the last few minutes before halftime, going on a 16-4 run over the final six minutes of the half.
Bulls guard Ronaldo Segu led the way with 20 points for Buffalo, although it wasn’t enough to get the Bulls the victory. Even though the season didn’t end the way Segu expected, he still reflects fondly on it.
“We did a lot of things that people didn’t expect us to do. We achieved a lot [this year],” Segu said. “We got over a lot of bumps. I feel like this will set a fire under our team and we will come back next year and continue the success this program has had the last few years.”
Although the Bulls went down double digits in the first half, their defensive intensity brought them right back into the game to start the second. The Bulls jumped out to a 15-2 run to take the lead and had Alumni Arena rocking.
The Bulls came out firing in the second half, hitting four of their first five three-pointers. You could feel the sense of urgency from the Bulls, as it was a win-or-go-home scenario in the MAC tournament.
After the Bulls’ initial attack, Miami roared back, keeping the game tight for most of the second half with both teams taking small leads but squandering them rather quickly.
In the final minutes, you could feel the pressure from both sides, as neither team wanted their season to end.
Josh Mballa’s layup with 1:20 left tied the game at 77 before Red Hawks guard Milos Jovic hit a layup to put them up by two with just under a minute left. After Bulls Guard Jayvon Graves missed the potential-tying jump shot with 37 seconds left, the Red Hawks hit two free throws to go up by four points. Segu hit two free throws to cut the lead in half, but the Red Hawks’ free throwing extended the lead back to four with under 10 seconds left. The Bulls weren’t able to overcome the deficit.
This game marked the end of the Bulls’ season, but head coach Jim Whitesell saw this season as a learning experience for his new group of players.
“The biggest thing with us was learning from our mistakes and learning about our team. We came a long way from the beginning of the year to the end, and I’m proud of our guys in terms of their work ethic and leadership.”
The Bulls won’t be in the NCAA tournament this year, but there is potential for postseason basketball in the NIT or CIT tournaments.
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Alex Lenneberg is an assistant sports editor for The Spectrum.