All of a sudden, there's only one game left before the MAC Tournament field is locked into place. And while Buffalo fans are back to their midseason optimism, the fact is the team still needs to win games. Bowling Green and a possible #2 seed looms, but only (in most scenarios) with a 12-6 finish to the season.
Ohio's 63-61 win over the Bulls in Athens earlier this year was one of the most uncharacteristic results for either team all season. Even then, it was an aberration for the Bobcats, and a surprising blip for UB, but a sign of inconsistency to come through the MAC season. Tonight, Buffalo took care of business with a 93-66 home win to move to 11-6 in the MAC.
Shannon Evans and Justin Moss, UB's leading scorers, took over this game with minimal resistance from Maurice Ndour, scoring 16 and 22, respectively. Rodell Wigginton also hit 20, and Moss finished with 17 rebounds and Evans 11 assists.
Ohio got 25 points from Ndour, but found themselves in foul trouble early and couldn't run with the Bulls.
There simply wasn't much to this one. UB took the lead for good with a 9-0 run midway through the first, and ran away in the second half. It's the game mostly everyone expected, the fifth straight win for the Bulls as they peak at the right time in the season.
My biggest concern coming into this game was the Bobcats forcing another slow, drag-it-out slugfest like the first matchup. UB indeed started slow, but even without a lightning-fast run without lots of transition points was able to quickly separate from the visitors midway through the first. At the half the Bulls had a comfortable, if seemingly lazy 41-29 lead. Justin Moss and Shannon Evans each had 10 points, and Moss nearly a double-double with 9 rebounds.
The story, though, was the actual slugfest that we did see. In a season marred across the conference by troubling referee decisions, the officials in this one never really had control of the game. Player from both teams were jawing with each other from the beginning, and the tension came to a head after a Shannon Evans three to put UB up by 13.
Evans was whistled for a technical, and shortly after a scrum in front of the Ohio bench turned into a Flagrant 2 and ejection for Raheem Johnson, and a Flagrant 1 for Ohio's Treg Setty. Upon review, Johnson took a cheap shot to Setty's groin. It's the second time in a handful of games we've seen that from Raheem, and it makes it really hard to root for the promising forward who's playing his way into more minutes.
I could give you end-game stats, but they don't mean much when there's such a disparity between the two teams. For all but the first eight minutes, UB dominated.
We all know by now how the season ends for UB: Senior Night on Friday, against Bowling Green. With a UB win and favorable MAC West outcomes, the #2 seed is eminently possible. I don't have the exact tiebreakers worked out yet, but I will within minutes here.
For Ohio, as it's been for a bit now, the eyes are on next year. The Bobcats are now mired in their longest losing streak in decades, and will likely see a lineup overhaul with transfers and highly-touted recruits joining the squad in 2014-15.