The Buffalo Bulls needed a win to keep pace in the MAC East, and win they did as they powered past the Central Michigan Chippewas late to a 101-91 finish. Blake Hamilton had a phenomenal night for the Bulls (10-12, 4-5 MAC) with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists, as UB had five players score in double figures on the night. The stars for Central Michigan (14-8, 4-5 MAC) didn’t show up like they needed to as Marcus Keene and Braylon Rayson combined for 15-41 from the floor Tuesday night.
The Bulls took an early advantage in the first half after eight consecutive points from C.J. Massinburg gave the team a 14-9 lead with 17:13 to go in the period. It took the Chippewas a while to take back the lead, but take it back they did as three-pointers from Luke Meyer and Blake Hibbits set the score at 32-29 with 8:29 remaining in the half. The teams battled back and forth the rest of the way UB taking a 52-50 lead into the locker room thanks to a Dave Kadiri layup with three seconds left.
Hamilton, Kadiri, and Massinburg each contributed 10+ points in the first half for Buffalo, with Hamilton adding four rebounds and four assists as well. Meanwhile, the tandem of Keene and Rayson carried the Chips with 32 points between them. There was a huge mismatch between the benches as the Bulls’ backups outscored CMU 13-3 in the half.
In the second half, UB managed to hold on to the lead but Central Michigan stayed within striking distance for much of the stanza. A 15-1 stretch from Buffalo to go up 88-71 with 6:48 left in regulation put the Chippewas in a bind as they were unable to come up with the stops necessary to pull off the come-from-behind win. Hamilton completely took over the game in the second half with 14 points off 6-8 shooting in the period, as well as seven boards and four assists.
The difference in the game lied in the Bulls ability to function as an offense, as the team shot 50.7% from the floor with 19 assists while CMU managed to shoot 40.5% with 13 of its buckets coming off of dishes. UB’s ability to play team basketball will be a huge asset heading into a pivotal juncture of the MAC season, while we have to take a “wait-and-see” approach with the Chips to see if two players can really carry a team to a MAC title.
Buffalo hits the road on Saturday for a huge test against the Ball State Cardinals at 9 p.m. while Central Michigan hosts the Western Michigan Broncos at 6:30 p.m. in what should be a fun rivalry game match-up.