Every team on the NCAA bubble breathed a huge sigh of relief as the #18 nationally ranked Buffalo Bulls outlasted the Central Michigan Chippewas, 85-81 in Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinal action in Cleveland on Friday night.
MAC Player-of-the-Year, C.J. Massinburg provided the spark for the Bulls as he hit a big basket and six pressure free throws late to secure the 3oth victory of the year for Buffalo. Massinburg finished with 21 points but was quite for much of the game…until it counted. He had only four points at halftime on 1 of 7 shooting from the field. Massinburg also led the Bulls with nine rebounds in the game.
The game was a tight contest from the beginning. Central Michigan held a 42-37 lead at halftime and throughout much of the second half. Buffalo finally took the lead back, 72-70 on a Jeremy Harris three pointer with 7:46 to play in the game. Central Michigan fought back to tie the game several times, but the Bulls never trailed from that point on.
Davonta Jordan finished with 16 points for Buffalo, while Nick Perkins had 14 points and nine rebounds. Harris finished with 12 and Dontay Caruthers with 11 as the others who scored in double figures for the Bulls.
Central Michigan had five players score in double figures: Rob Montgomery (17), Larry Austin (16), Shaun Roundtree (16), Kevin McKay (14), and David DiLeo (10). The Chippewas were 10 of 26 from the 3-point line but struggled at the free throw line making only 7 of 15 (46%).
Buffalo out-rebounded Central Michigan 47-30 and made 17 of 24 free throws in the game. Those two stats were probably the difference in the game.
#1 seeded Buffalo is now 30-3 on the year and advances to the MAC Championship Game tomorrow night. Central Michigan is now 23-12 and will await to find out where it will be playing postseason basketball.