Bulls Capture 3rd MAC Title in 4 Years

When former Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley left the Bulls, fans feared the program would lose some of their dominance in the Mid-American Conference. Now head coach Nate Oats would disagree with that fear.

For the third time in four years, the Buffalo Bulls have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

This time it would come at the hands of the Toledo Rockets by a final of 76-66. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they were without MAC player of the year Tre’Shaun Fletcher.

The story of the game was the high pick and roll between MAC All-Third Team guard Wes Clark and MAC Sixth Man of the Year Nick Perkins. Oates went to this set time and time again, typically against guard Jaelan Sanford and center Luke Knapke. Sanford struggled all night to fight through the large frame of Perkins, and with Knapke sitting back instead of hedging, Clark poured in open jumpers all game to the tune of 26 points.

Perkins, after going just 1-8 in the first half, found a rhythm against a tired Knapke in the second half. “I just slowed down, got to my spot, and finished”, said Perkins. “That really was the big difference”. The big man would finish with 16 huge points.

Toledo would end the game with 3 starters in double digit scoring, led by Jaelan Sanford with 19. However, they were just never able to get over the hump in the second half. “The difference was on us… a couple bad turnovers back to back and missed wide open shots”, said the junior guard. “It was just on us”.

Despite having the NCAA Tournament now staring him in the face, Coach Oats pointed out how excited he was for next season. “Well, if you go to some NCAA tournaments, it is easy to recruit the best players, and you can keep this momentum rolling”, said the second year Buffalo coach. “And the recruiting class we’ve got coming in next year…we’ve got something building”.

Buffalo now awaits Selection Sunday to see where they are seeded and who they will be playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Kent Flashes Past Defending Champion Buffalo, Advance to Semi-Finals

Cleveland, OH- The last quarterfinal game of the day featured the third seeded Buffalo Bulls against the sixth seeded Kent State Golden Flashes. The team had split the season series; however Kent had won the previous matchup with dominating performances from Jimmy Hall and Jaylin Walker. Today would play out similarly.

The first half started much quicker than the previous quarterfinal game with the two offenses clicking, both shooting over 40%.

The ballgame was tied at 23-23 before a quick 6-0 run from the Flashes put Kent ahead the rest of the first half.

With star senior and All-MAC 1st Team selection Jimmy Hall Jr. put on the bench early with 2 fouls, Jaylin Walker and Deon Edwin (All-MAC Defensive Team) led the Flashes scoring pace with 11 points each. For Buffalo, the Bulls received some much-needed help from their top playmakers. Nick Perkins (MAC 6th Man of the Year) and Blake Hamilton (All-MAC 2nd Team) led the attack with 9 points each, as well as All-MAC Honorable Mention C.J. Massinburg who added 6 points and 3 rebounds in the first half.

The second half saw a bit more of a sluggish start, however Hall was finally able to get things going as he recorded a block, 2 rebounds, and a layup all within the first 4 minutes to add some swagger to his step. He would continue that dominance throughout the night.

Blake Hamilton was electric all night long; however he would pick up his 5th foul on a careless loose ball foul after he missed the previous layup. Hamilton finished with 17 points on 7-12 shooting for the night.

One of the bigger stories of the game was Buffalo senior Willie Conner, who was the MVP of last year’s tournament and averaged 13 points per game during the regular season. However, he would struggle big time tonight. Conner hit his first shot from the field with just over 7 minutes to play in the second half and that would be it. He did knock down 5 out of his 6 free throw to finish with 7 points on the night.

The real drama began to unfold late in the second half, as at the 2:30 mark, Jaylin Walker fouled Conner and picked up a quick technical for arguing the call. 4 free throws for Buffalo pulled them within 3, 65-62.

Nick Perkins also fouled out of the game with just under 2 minutes to go. Perkins shot poorly from the field but managed to be effective, putting in 11 points on 4-13 shooting.

With 12 seconds to go, Jimmy Hall, on a nice interior drop step, drew a foul and would head to the line. He would sink both from the line to give Kent a 68-65 lead.

Massinburg, despite a tremendous night, could not get his final three point heave at the buzzer to fall, as the Bulls would see their season end to the Flashes. 68-65.

On the night overall, both teams shot well below their normal average, with Kent and Buffalo shooting 35% (42% and 44% normally, respectively). Jimmy Hall finished with 24 points on 6-13 shooting, adding in 8 rebounds as well. Deon Edwin also had a big night for KSU, putting in 14 points on 5-12 shooting and grabbing 11 boards to give him a double-double. Jaylin Walker also added in 12 points for the Flashes.

The Flashes will be back in action tomorrow night in the semi-finals where they will take on Ohio. Check out the post-game press conference with Kent State below!

 

 

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