Bulls Clinch MAC East Title With 95-82 Win Over Bowling Green

CJ Massinburg

BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team clinched their second outright MAC East Title on Friday night with a 95-82 win over Bowling Green in front of 5,707 fans at Alumni Arena.  The victory improves Buffalo to 20-7 on the season and 12-2 in MAC play.  UB also clinched one of the top four seeds in the upcoming conference tournament and will have a bye straight to the MAC Quarterfinals in Cleveland.

For the sixth straight game, the Bulls shot 50% or better from the floor, shooting 51.6% on Friday evening.  The Bulls were hot from behind the arc, shooting 60% as they made 12-of-20 three pointers.

The Falcons, who came into Friday night's game winners of four of their last five, held an 18-14 lead with 12:29 left when the Bulls went on an 11-2 run to take a 25-20 lead and they never looked back.  The Bulls led by just three at 32-29 when junior CJ Massinburg scored five straight on one possession to put Buffalo up by eight.  He hit a layup and was fouled, but Massinburg missed the free throw and tracked down his rebound in the corner and drained a triple to give Buffalo the 37-29 lead.

UB continued to lead 37-31 when the Bulls scored 11 straight points including three straight three pointers from Jeremy Harris, Massinburg, and capped off by junior Dontay Caruthers.  Another three, this time from Nick Perkins with six seconds left, gave UB a 51-36 lead into the break.

Bowling Green opened the second half on an 11-1 run as they pulled within five at 52-47.  The Falcons got as close to three with 13:56 left, but Harris answered with a big three pointer. With Bowling Green down just 57-53, the Bulls went on another run scoring nine straight points to go back ahead by 13.  That run was capped off on the first of two thunderous alley-oop dunks from freshman Jayvon Graves, who had another one with 7:45 left to give Buffalo the 75-62 lead.

Bowling Green pulled to within five with 6:09 left, but Harris drained another big three as UB scored seven straight points.  The Falcons answered again as a pair of free throws pulled them within six at 82-76 with 4:06 left, but Buffalo scored five straight to go up 87-76 with 3:17 remaining and BG never got any closer than nine.  The Bulls hit their last four free throws to seal the deal.

"I was really happy with our offensive play getting 24 assists on 33 made baskets," said head coach Nate Oats, who won 20 games for the second time in three seasons as Buffalo head coach. "We talked about turning the ball over less and getting it back into single digits so I was happy with that and I thought our guys shot the ball well.  They are getting in the gym and putting shots up and the leadership on this team is really good so I never have to worry about that."

Massinburg led the Bulls with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while adding five assists and not turning it over.  Massinburg went 6-of-13 from the floor, hitting three triples, while also finishing 9-of-11 from the free throw line.

Perkins added 22 points off the bench as he went 9-of-17 from the floor and 3-of-4 from behind the arc.  Harris added 19 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal.

Senior Wes Clark added 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists, while not turning it over and sophomore Davonta Jordan had six points, a game-high eight assists, and just one turnover.  He also recorded three steals.

Graves had four points, while Caruthers and Ikenna Smart each finished with three.

The Bulls did an excellent job defending the three-point line as Bowling Green shot just 5-of-20 from behind the arc.

The Bulls will have four regular season games left before the conference tournament.  They return to the road on Tuesday night when UB will travel to Oxford, OH to meet Miami. Tip off is at 7pm and it will air on ESPN3.

NOTA-BULLS

With their 12 made threes tonight, the Bulls have set a new school record for three-pointers in a season with 265, besting the old mark of 263, which was set in 2015-16.

Buffalo has now reached the 20-win mark for the seventh time in school history and the third time in the last five years.

It was the fourth time in conference play that Buffalo scored 90 or more points and the 12th time in 14 MAC games that they have scored 80 or more points.