PROVIDENCE, RI – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team gave third-seeded Miami all it could handle, but ultimate lost, 79-72, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, RI on Thursday night. The back-to-back Mid-American Conference champions finished the season 20-15.
"I couldn't be more proud of the kids I coached this year," head coach Nate Oats said. "It's pretty well-documented what we've been through as a program with everything, and they just played their tails off for us all year."
The Bulls had four players score in double-figures, paced by Nick Perkins who scored a career-high 20 points. The freshman forward was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and added six rebounds. Lamonte Bearden also had a strong game with 19 points and three assists.
Miami's size and athleticism befuddled the Bulls for most of the game. The Hurricanes' allowed only six UB points in the paint in the first half. However, Buffalo was hot early from deep and with the help of five three-pointers, built a nine-point lead with 12:47 left in the first half. Miami stormed back to take a 12-point lead with 6:11 left in the half, before a resilient Bulls squad clawed back to cut the Miami lead to 35-33 at the break.
Miami opened the second half on a 14-5 scoring run to extend its lead 49-38 with 13:34 left. The Hurricanes built their lead to 68-56 with 5:25, before the Bulls made their run. Willie Conner, who was the Most Valuable Player of the MAC Tournament, drained his only three of the game to spark the run. A three-pointer by Blake Hamilton made it a two-possession game, 70-64, with 4:04 left.
The Bulls inched even closer on a jumper in the lane by Bearden that cut the lead to 72-68 with 1:56 on the clock. The sophomore guard had a chance to pull the Bulls to within one on their next possession, but his three-point attempt was just off the mark. Miami sealed the win at the free throw line.
Like Perkins, fellow freshman CJ Massinburg had a strong game, finishing with 11 points. Hamilton scored 11 of his 12 points in the second half to round out Bulls in double-figures. Hamilton added a team-high nine rebounds.
Miami dominated the glass, outrebounding the Bulls 44-31. The Hurricanes scored 12 second-chance points. Defensively, the Bulls forced 14 Miami turnovers.
"We missed two open threes that would have cut that thing to one possession there late in the game," Oats said. "We were just a couple stops or shots away from -- we had a lead for a lot of the first half, too. So I think a lot of our kids proved they belong on a big stage like this. I'm so happy for them because they gave everything they had to the program through the whole year."