CLEVELAND — The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team completed the championship sweep Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Jeremy Harris scored 31 points to help the Bulls to an 87-73 win against Bowling Green for the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship. The Bulls clinched their fourth MAC championship and their fourth NCAA Tournament berth since 2015. UB won conference titles and received automatic bids in 2015, 2016 and 2018.
The Bulls improve to 31-3, a MAC record for wins in a season in men’s basketball. The Bulls enter the NCAA Tournament on a 12-game winning streak and will learn their tournament destination when the NCAA announces the 68-team field Sunday night.
The UB women’s team, which earlier in the day won its own MAC titles, joined the men’s team on the floor for the trophy presentation.
The Bulls won their three games in Cleveland by an average of 18 points, helped by a 36-point blowout of Kent State in the quarterfinals.
Harris’ 31 points came on 13-for-20 shooting, and CJ Massinburg and Jayvon Graves each added 17. Massinburg also had 10 rebounds.
Third-seeded Bowling Green, which handed UB one of its three losses, finished the season 22-12. Saturday was the first meeting between the two teams in the MAC Tournament.
The Bulls took a 12-8 lead less than five minutes into the game, with the help of 3-pointers by Davonta Jordan and Jayvon Graves, and held the Falcons without a shot from the perimeter — Bowling Green opened 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, and finished 2 for 10 in the first half.
Then, the Falcons hit a drought from the floor. Bowling Green went without a successful shot from the floor for a span of nearly six minutes. In that time, the Bulls went on a 9-0 run, and at one point the Falcons called a 30-second timeout with 9:04 left in an attempt to regroup, trailing 24-13.
It didn’t work. UB built its lead to 28-13 less than a minute after the timeout, and led by as many as 12. The Bulls also didn’t allow Bowling Green to hit its first 3-pointer until less than four minutes remained in the half, but Daeqwon Plowden’s shot cut UB’s lead to 36-31, part of a 14-3 run in the final 4:13 that cut UB’s lead to 39-38 with 1:30 left in the half. The Falcons also grabbed 25 rebounds to UB’s 17 in the first half, including 18 defensive rebounds to UB’s 13.
The Bulls and the Falcons traded leads five times in the first 2:09 of the second half, before Jeremy Harris’ 3-pointer 3:17 into the half tied the game at 50-50, but Dylan Frye hit only his second 3-pointer to break a scoreless drought of 2:31 that gave the Falcons a 53-50 lead.
The Bulls and the Falcons traded the lead six more times in more than two minutes midway through the second half, and UB used an 11-3 run to open its lead to 74-68 with less than five minutes left.
But Nick Perkins fouled out, a fourth foul plus a technical foul, and Justin Turner and Demajeo Wiggins made three of four free throws to cut UB’s lead to 74-71 with 4:26 left. The Bulls didn’t panic, though. Eighteen seconds later, Graves’ 3-pointer opened UB’s lead back to seven points, kicking off a decisive 13-2 run that closed the game for the Bulls.