If Justin Moss does not win MAC Player of the Year, I will assume the voters did not watch this game. Bedeviled by foul trouble, the forward played the final eight minutes of the game sitting on four fouls and simply took over, finishing with 19 points and 9 rebounds in Buffalo's #2-seed-clinching 77-75 win over Bowling Green Friday night.
Alumni Arena has never been a particularly easy place for MAC opponents to play, and as we detailed earlier in the week, it's been a downright nightmare on Senior Night, where UB is now 14-1 over the last 15 years after a post-renovation record 6,607 fan packed the house.
Bowling Green in particular has caught the short end of the stick on that one, having lost to the Bulls on Buffalo's Senior Night three times since 2008, including to Mitchell Watt- and Javon McCrea-led teams in 2012 and 2014. Tonight, the Falcons disrupted UB's offense throughout and did so without star forward Richaun Holmes, who played few minutes with an apparent jaw injury.
On a night when Buffalo just couldn't find a rhythm offensively, Will Regan did all he could to win on his senior day, dropping 17 points on five made triples and adding 8 rebounds. Anthony Henderson had 19 on 5-5 shooting from outside for Bowling Green.
UB appeared to have grabbed all the momentum before the break, erasing a 14-point deficit in about three minutes on a barrage of three pointers. But the second half started with slow stretches for each team and remained tight into the very end. Buffalo rarely had the lead until Moss re-entered the game with four fouls and quickly took over, grabbing rebounds and forcing the issue down low.
The difference late, simply, was foul shots. After a terrible first half from the line, UB was 11-15 in the second, converting key and-ones, while Bowling Green was just 6-10. When Bowling Green missed the front end of a 1-1 down 75-76 and eight seconds to play, Justin Moss came up big with one of his own and a steal/disruption of some sort. It's not entirely clear to me how the last two seconds went down, as livestats ruled the game final twice and I don't know how to describe how UB won, other than that they did.
Until those dying minutes of the first half, it was Moss and only Moss for UB, which was a problem considering he sat ten minutes in the half. The momentum started to shift, though, when Bobby Hurley sent him back in with two fouls, and UB started to find a groove from outside.
And boy did they find find it. After a Falcon three - one of five in the first half - put the visitors up 14, Will Regan hit one. Then Shannon Evans hit one. Regan again. Bowling Green hit a single free throw, and Evans hit two more in the final seventy seconds. Suddenly, it was a 15-1 UB run and a tie game at the half.
Before that, to say UB came out tight and with a slow start is an understatement. Back and forth to a 12-11 UB lead, the game quickly became one-sided in the visitor's favor. Moss picked up two fouls in the first five minutes, Buffalo couldn't buy a three, and missed eight free throws en route to the 34-20 deficit.
I already mentioned Regan above. His fellow senior, Xavier Ford, finished with 6 points and 9 rebounds on just 2-9 shooting. Freshman Lamonte Bearden, if not for Moss' heroics, would have stolen the show with a pair of big shots in the final three minutes.
With that, the regular season is over at 21-9 for UB. Alumni Arena was the last MAC building to go final, so we knew by the end that the Bulls were playing for the #2 or #5 seed. They ended up with that coveted bye into the semifinals thanks to their 2-2 aggregate record against Kent State and CMU, who also finished at 12-6. The Chippewas are 2-1 against the East teams, while Kent is just 1-2.
UB will now take a full week off before playing, while the rest of the conference sorts itself out. Next stop: Cleveland. Go Bulls