UB Men's Basketball will return to the MAC Tournament semifinal for the third time in five years - and with a third different coach - thanks to a 94-81 quarterfinal win over Miami Thursday evening in Cleveland.
Junior Willie Conner hit six threes and scored 25 for Buffalo, who led for nearly the entire game. Dion Wade led the RedHawks with 16 as the underdogs never let the game get away from them.
UB roared out of a 37-31 halftime lead with consecutive triples from Willie Conner, Conner again, and a deep, confident shot from Lamonte Bearden. Though Miami hit their shots as well, Buffalo upped both their pace and their efficiency to build a double-digit lead before the first media timeout of the half, one that carried them to victory as the game reached the 75-point threshold UB likes and the RedHawks don't.
The fouls and free throw disparity had kept Miami in the game in the first half. Though UB shot 56% from the floor, the RedHawks kept within six at the half by taking care of the ball and earning trips to the line, while Buffalo shot just 4-10 in that first stanza.
But by the final buzzer, the Bulls had the balanced scoring they'll need to win games this week without a single player on either the First or Second All MAC Teams. In addition to Conner, Jarryn Skeete (with three triples), CJ Massinburg, Blake Hamilton and Bearden each hit double digits, and Nick Perkins finished just short. UB had 25 points from their bench and 62 from players who didn't see the floor last season. Hamilton also flirted with a triple-double, tallying 7 assists and a career-high 16 rebounds.
The stat of the game, though, was UB's work on the boards, where they outplayed Miami to a 47-35 margin and earned 16 second-chance points to four from the RedHawks.
The win was the 18th on the season for Buffalo and first-year coach Nate Oats, matching Len Serfustini and pulling to within one win of Bobby Hurley for most wins as a first-year coach at UB. With the win, the Bulls also advance further into the postseason than Hurley's first team in 2014.
The Bulls will face Ohio, again in the late game, tomorrow, after the Bobcats easily rolled through Northern Illinois earlier this evening. OU's Antonio Campbell was named MAC Player of the Year yesterday and scored 21 as the entire Ohio team hit 14 three-pointers.