The Buffalo Men’s Basketball team has won its fourth Mid-American Conference Tournament championship in the last five years as Buffalo defeated Bowling Green in the title game 87-73 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio March 16. Buffalo coach Nate Oats will be headed to the Bulls’ second straight NCAA Tournament after the win.
In the quarterfinals March 14, Buffalo got the day started with a blowout victory over Akron. The Bulls didn’t let the Zips hang around for very long in the 82-46 triumph. Jeremy Harris had 23 points and three assists in the win. The following game was a lot closer as Central Michigan and Kent State faced off. Central Michigan pulled off the slight upset, 89-81.
The Chippewas were led by Larry Austin Jr., who had 23 points on 8-15 shooting from the field. In the final two games of the day, Northern Illinois advanced past Toledo and Bowling Green eliminated Ball State. Eugene German led all scorers on the day with 27 points and seven rebounds. Tayler Person had 25 points for Ball State in the 99-86 loss.
“Great to be back at Quicken Loans in Cleveland,” Oats said. “Jeremy always seems to find his game down here. Call him Mr. March for a reason. He shows up down here and he was great last tournament, he was great again today. I just hope it’s big arenas and big lights because every game we’re going to play from here on out is going to be in a big arena.”
The next day, in the semifinals, Buffalo found itself in some trouble. Central Michigan led 42-37 at the half, after scoring 26 points in the paint. But the experience of the Bulls kept them in the game and MAC Player of the Year, C.J. Massinburg, came up clutch scoring 21 points and nine rebounds, propelling his team to a win. Bowling Green slipped past Northern Illinois later in the night.
The Falcons were up 46-23 at halftime but struggled mightily in the first part of the second half and allowed Northern Illinois to climb back into the game. German was incredible, scoring 31 points on 66.7 percent shooting and five assists but it wasn’t quite enough, losing 71-67. Dylan Frye led Bowling Green in scoring with 25 points in the victory.
“We’ve got one more,” Frye said. “I'm not satisfied and I'm ready for this game.”
In the championship game Saturday night, Buffalo got off to a quick start against Bowling Green but the Falcons were able to keep it close for a while. The Bulls held just a 39-38 lead at the break and even trailed in the second half but Harris was phenomenal down the stretch. He totaled 31 points and five rebounds, willing his team to an 87-73 win.
“It just shows like what a dynasty this is, this Buffalo program, and where it’s come from and where we [are] at now,” Massinburg said. “It's just all amazing. Oats just signed his extension. I'm really excited to see where this Buffalo program will go. But this team's not done yet.”
Harris was named tournament MVP as he averaged 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three games. Massinburg was named to the All-MAC Tournament Team alongside Harris, German, Frye and Demajeo Wiggins. Buffalo will await the announcement of its first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament before playing on either March 21 or March 22.