Coming into the second half of conference play, Buffalo sat in prime position with a 6-3 record. The Bulls were riding a 4 game winning streak after an impressive come from behind win over Eastern Michigan. For the first time this season, they looked like the best team in the MAC. Unfortunately for Bulls fans everywhere, they were in for another shake up.
Three Miserable Games
Bulls fans received bad news one hour before tip-off for their matchup with Toledo. Several media outlets had reported that sophomore Lamonte Bearden was suspended indefinitely. Bearden was the Bulls' leading scorer and had been the team's floor general since he arrived from Germantown, Wisconsin. The suspension soon changed to three games and was later revealed that the infraction was because of the sophomore's use of Marijuana.
If this had been any other season, I feel like the reaction would've been much worse; but Bulls fans may have grown used to seeing turmoil within this program in the past 10 months. Nonetheless, this suspension set the tone for the next three games and the rest of the season.
Despite not having Bearden, Buffalo held their own with the Toledo Rockets. The game was tied with 39 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately, the Bulls were unable to pull out the win as they were riddled with foul trouble and only went to the free throw line nine times.
Ohio's return to Alumni Arena was more sickening for Bulls fans all around. The last time the Bobcats came to Western New York, the Bulls triumphed in complete dominance. Unfortunately, this season's meeting was a complete reversal. Ohio had no problem blowing out the Bulls in the first half of the game as they shot lights-out.
The only good thing left in the rubble from the Ohio game was a stellar performance from freshman CJ Massinburg. CJ "Buckets" gave everything he had and went off for 36 points that night. He seemed to be the only player on the court with any energy left in him during the blowout. Anyone could tell he was not satisfied with the performance of the team, especially when you looked at how he was speaking to fellow teammates during the game and most notably during a verbal spar with Nick Perkins.
Buffalo traveled to Akron afterwards and the Bulls' performance wasn't pretty at all. Massinburg continued his late season swing but as a team, the Bulls struggled. Buffalo managed only eight assists and it was clear that all of the momentum they had before this skid was gone.
Limping to the Finish
Just like a year before with Bobby Hurley at the helm, Buffalo sat 6-6 in MAC play. All hope was not lost though because the three games that Buffalo dropped were without Lamonte Bearden. The Bulls won their next two matchups between Bowling Green and Kent State. When facing the Falcons' zone, it became clear that Buffalo did not want to see a zone in the MAC tournament.
Buffalo lost two straight games following the win versus Kent State. When the Bulls traveled to the Convocation Center to square off with the Bobcats, they played well. The only problem was foul trouble. As soon as the game went into overtime, there was no way Buffalo could pull out the win because several players were fouled out or were on their fourth foul.
UB's next loss to the Miami RedHawks made the situation more concerning. Miami was one of the worst teams in the MAC and stumped Buffalo in their senior night outing. Despite it being senior night, Rodell Wigginton and Jarryn Skeete went only 3-19 combined from the floor.
Although the chances of getting a top-four seed for the MAC tournament were slim, Buffalo desperately needed a win in their final regular season game to show they could contend in the tournament. In another tightly contested game between the Falcons' zone and the Bulls' uptempo offense, Buffalo eked out a three point win over the worst team in the MAC. Turmoil ensued around the rest of the conference and somehow the Bulls managed to come out with a 3 seed in the tournament.
Buffalo showed a ton of promise in the first half of MAC play but mixed feelings were evident throughout the fan base. Many felt that the Bulls needed to win by a larger margin over the worst team in the conference. Luckily, the Bulls had almost a full week to prepare for their next game.
One week made quite the difference.