It wasn’t a perfect win, but at the end of the day Buffalo (26-3, 14-2 MAC) bested the Miami RedHawks (15-14, 7-9 MAC) 77-69 on Friday night and clinched at least a share of the MAC regular season title.
Buffalo came storming out of the gates in this one, jumping out to a 18-0 lead in just the first five minutes. The comfortable lead did not last long however, as the RedHawks regrouped after the media timeout and began to actually score points.
Miami finally broke through with a few minutes left in the first half, scoring 14 straight while the Bulls went on a nearly five-minute bucketless stretch. It was tight going into the half, with Buffalo holding on to a 37-33 lead.
Despite never gaining the lead, Miami kept it within single digits virtually the entire second half. Buffalo maintained control, but they failed to run away with it like they have in so many conference games this season.
Things really got interesting at the very end, as Miami pulled within 3 of Buffalo with two minutes left in the game. Senior forward Nick Perkins finally put it away for good with a three in the last minute.
As for individual performances, Bulls senior guard CJ Massinburg was the standout player of the night despite being ice cold from beyond the arc, finishing with his 4th double-double of the season (20 points, 10 boards, 4 assists). Perkins and Jayvon Graves also had solid performances with 13 points apiece.
Overall, this was a sluggish game that Buffalo won’t mind forgetting. In all likelihood, tonight’s subpar offensive showing is just an outlier, but the Bulls need to make sure that they are firing on all cylinders heading into March and get back to the fluid, high-scoring offense that we saw in their last few games.
The game play may not have been spectacular, but the obvious story from tonight is the Bulls clinching at least a share of the MAC regular season championship. The Bulls would have secured the outright title, but Bowling Green took care of Kent State 77-72 on Friday night to remain in the hunt.
To force a first-place tie, Bowling Green would have to win out, including a win against the Bulls next Friday, and Buffalo would have to lose at Ohio next Tuesday. Not a likely scenario, but mathematically the Falcons are still in it.
If a first-place tie does occur, the tiebreaker will go to BGSU due to their head-to-head record. However, the Bulls are in control of their own destiny to win an outright conference championship.
As for bracketology, Buffalo remains pretty much a lock for the Big Dance, with most big sites placing them as a 7 or 6 seed. This is all tentative though, as the Bulls have to take care of business against Bowling Green and the MAC tournament in the coming weeks before they can worry about the bracket.