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2023 MAC Tournament Quarterfinals Game Recap: Akron Zips 101, Buffalo Bulls 77

John Groce’s Zips shot the lights out in blowout win over the Bulls.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Tournament - Kent St. vs Akron Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips completed the state of Ohio’s dominance of the MAC Tournament quarterfinal with a 101–77 win over the Buffalo Bulls late Thursday night in Cleveland, in a game which wasn’t particularly close at any point. Like the three earlier games at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the contest was decided in the first half. The Zips got out to a 22–13 lead half through the period and never looked back. They tallied 45 points in the first and 56 in the second, shooting 59 percent from the field.

First team all-MAC honoree Xavier Castaneda had 14 points in the first and outdid himself in the second, tallying 17 more for a total of 31. The star guard went 6-of-11 from three and also added six rebounds and four assists. Enrique Freeman, who finished the regular season second place in field goal percentage in the MAC, went 8-of-10 from the field and finished with 19.

Buffalo’s starters struggled mightily in the contest going 15-of-40 from the field. Coming off the bench, guard Zid Powell was the lone spark for the Bulls, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds.

Despite reaching a 30-point lead with 7:34 remaining with minutes remaining, the Zips never took their foot off the gas and didn’t pull starters until around the two-minute mark. An Evan Wilson three-pointer with 34 seconds to go allowed Akron to reach the century mark for the second time this season.

Buffalo was never able to crack the Zips’ code in three matchups this season, losing by double digits in all of them. This was Jim Whitesell’s worst season as head coach, finishing with a losing record for the first time in four years. He has yet to replicate the success of his predecessor Nate Oats, who won three MAC Tournament championships from 2015–2019.

John Groce, who has had tremendous success in March historically, has a squad that is in good form and will be highly motivated to win the rubber match against arch rival Kent State on Friday evening.

The two teams will face off in Cleveland at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, with coverage provided by CBS Sports Network.