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RedHawks and Cardinals big winners of wild Tuesday in MAC hoops

Miami stuns conference leader Buffalo and Ball State rolls over NIU to win fifth-straight.

NCAA Basketball: Miami (OH) at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Shakeup Tuesday.

With all 12 MAC teams tipping off at 7 pm EST, chaos was bound to happen. Three of the games were MAC East battles, while the other three were clashes between MAC West foes. When the night was finished, the top two teams in the conference suffered unexpected road losses. As a result, the MAC looks as competitive as ever, which bodes favorably for a captivating conference tournament, which begins March 5.

Tuesday night scoreboard

Ball State 77, Northern Illinois 68

In one of the less chaotic games of the night, the Cardinals pulled through in Muncie, defeating the Huskies in a nearly wire-to-wire win. Ball State jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but Northern Illinois climbed back to lead 20-18.

But after a few minutes of a tight-knit scuffle in the first half, center Trey Moses delivered a career game. The junior, who has seen a great spike in his free throw shooting percentage and scoring totals lately, contributed a career-best 23 points and added 12 rebounds to claim his ninth double-double of the season. Moses blocked three shots and led plenty of hustle plays for the Cardinals, from taking charges to fighting for tip-ins on offensive rebounds.

Moses wasn't the only Cardinal who completed a milestone Tuesday night. Senior shooting guard Sean Sellers sunk 2-of-4 threes to tie Jesse Berry (2010-14) for the Ball State program record of 224 career three-pointers made. Sellers finished with 12, and the always-clutch Tayler Persons delivered 14 points in a great backcourt performance by the Cardinals.

Northern Illinois kept the game close in the first half, but struggled immediately coming out of the locker room after the break. The Huskies' Eugene German pitched in 25 points for his fifth-straight game of scoring 23 or more, but it wasn't enough to lift Northern Illinois out of the MAC West cellar.

Ball State improves to 10-5 in the MAC and 19-9 overall, closing the gap on Toledo's (who lost to Eastern Michigan on Tuesday) edge in the MAC West. The Cardinals have strung together five-straight wins, replicating their dominance from the tail-end non-conference play, where they beat Notre Dame and won nine consecutive contests.

Miami (OH) 84, Buffalo 81

At the beginning of conference play, the Bulls looked to be the conference's invincible giant. But Buffalo has struggled on the road lately, dropping three of its last four games away from New York. The Bulls couldn't handle a 14-14 Miami program in the second half in Oxford, falling by three points for their third MAC loss.

Buffalo led by as much as 10 in the first half (35-25), but the RedHawks climbed back into the game thanks to eight quick points by marksman Isaiah Coleman-Lands (5-of-7 on threes on the night) in the half's final four minutes.

At the beginning of the second half, Nike Sibande of the RedHawks drained a triple to tie the score, and Miami was able to gain a 45-43 lead on the ensuing possession — its first of the night. However, the RedHawks weren't separating themselves from the MAC's frontrunner from beyond the arc, but from the charity stripe. Miami shot 81.3% compared to Buffalo's 58.8% mark on free throws, allowing Miami to score plenty of simple second half points.

Holding onto small leads, the RedHawks were able to keep the Bulls away from victory by hitting 6-of-6 free throws from the 31-second mark until just 14 seconds remained. But before Miami relied on one-point shots, the team secured a clutch offensive rebound and finished with a second-chance dunk with 43 seconds left. This uncontested Dalonte Brown jam increased the deficit to six, and the Bulls failed to force Miami to relinquish the lead.

At the final buzzer (where Buffalo's Jeremy Harris impressively sunk a shot from beyond half court), the RedHawks improved to .500 overall and Buffalo let its tough February continue by letting another road game slip away. The Bulls hope to regroup when they host Ohio on Saturday, while Miami will have a chance to build on the momentum at Akron, also on February 24.