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2021 MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament Semifinals Recap: #2 Buffalo Bulls vs. #3 Akron Zips

It was a hardscrabble battle, but the Bulls emerged on top to once again put themselves in position to make an NCAA Tournament run.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament - Akron vs Buffalo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a shame there weren’t more fans allowed on hand live at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse to experience this one, because this game was the very definition of #MACtion, as the #2 Buffalo Bulls needed a late rally in regulation and overtime to defeat the #3 Akron Zips in their Mid-American Conference Men’s Tournament semifinal match by a final score of 81-74.

The teams traded ebb and flow runs throughout regulation. The Bulls looked like they might run away and hide early in the first half. They had a 10-point lead at 26-16 but the Zips did enough to hang around. Buffalo had a 33-28 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Zips scored the first seven points to take a 35-33 lead with 17:15 to play. Over the next 15-plus minutes of regulation the two teams traded haymakers and exchanged the lead numerous times in some of the most entertaining basketball you’ll ever see.

It looked like Buffalo might win this in regulation as they held a 68-64 lead with just over a minute to play. But back came the Zips eventually getting a Enrique Freeman tip-in off a miss to tie the game just one second on the clock. The Bulls threw the ensuing in-bounds pass away without the clock starting, giving the Zips a chance to inbound from under their own bucket for a final shot. Loren Cristian Jackson did get a shot off at the buzzer for Akron but it was no good and we headed to overtime at 68-all.

In overtime, the Bulls somehow found another gear. They scored the first seven points in overtime to take a 76-68 lead. A Jeenathan Williams three-pointer was the final blow in that run which basically won the game for the Bulls. The Zips then made some key mistakes down the stretch with turnovers and missed lay-ups that prevented them from yet another rally.

Jeenathan Williams led the Bulls with 26 points and was 10 of 14 from the field. Ronaldo Segu added 16 for Buffalo, and teammate Josh Mballa finished with 16 points and 20 rebounds. Jackson finished with 27 points for Akron, but he needed 33 shots to do so. Buffalo survived a horrible night at the free throw line, only making 8 of 19 attempts.

Buffalo improves to 16-7 on the season and advances to the Championship Game tomorrow night against the #5 Ohio Bobcats. Akron drops to 15-8.