CLEVELAND, OH – Blake Hamilton drained a three-pointer with two seconds left to lift the University at Buffalo men's basketball team to its second straight Mid-American Conference championship – defeating Akron, 64-61, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night. The Bulls are the first team in 14 years to repeat as MAC champions.
The Bulls have been a resilient bunch during the entire MAC Tournament, none more so than tonight as a pro-Akron crowd filled the Q. The Zips contingent erupted when Akron hit back-to-back three-pointers to give the Zips the lead, 61-58, with 2:13 left. However, Hamilton responded with a guarded three in the corner to tie the game at 61 with 1:39 left.
The Bulls played great defense all night, culminating on the Zips next possession as they looked to take the lead. However, Nick Perkins forced Akron's Isaiah Johnson into an off-balanced layup attempt and Hamilton snatched the rebound with 45 ticks left.
An Akron foul gave the ball to the Bulls with 23 seconds left and the shot clock dark. Lamonte Bearden took the inbounds pass and looked to take the last shot. However, when he was shut down in the lane he kicked the ball up top to Perkins. Instead of forcing the shot, Perkins wisely passed it to Hamilton who was wide open for the game winner.
Fittingly, Hamilton stole the inbounds pass to seal the victory for the Bulls.
"An exciting weekend for us," head coach Nate Oats said. "Nobody was predicting this back in October, November. So I can't say enough about the character of these guys. We had returners, new guys. Everybody stepped up. We had the changeover in the program. The guys that stayed with us, believed in us, what we could do. You know, I'm just really proud of like those three, Lamonte, Rodell and Jarryn, I thought they did a really good job just being leaders in the locker room all year. And then these new guys really believed in us, came here to win to get to the NCAA tournament. What they were able to pull off in year one, I can't say enough about them."
Freshman CJ Massinburg led all scorers with 18 points, including four three-pointers. Hamilton added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Bearden had 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
The Bulls dominated the glass, outrebounding the Zips, 43-31. UB had 13 offensive rebounds that really seemed to frustrate the Zips.
Willie Conner was named the MAC Tournament MVP and joined Massinburg and Bearden on the All-Tournament team.
Buffalo will now wait to see who it plays in the NCAA Tournament.