Hours after 12-seed Yale upset Baylor on the same floor, UB Men's Hoops hit Providence's Dunkin Donuts Center looking for another upset in front of a friendly crowd that frequently broke out into pro-Bulls chants.
14-3 is a bigger disparity than 12-5, though, and the Bulls couldn't break past the #11-ranked Miami Hurricanes, falling in the first round, 79-72. Angel Rodriguez led Miami with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, while underclassmen Lamonte Bearden, CJ Massinburg, and Nick Perkins combined to score 50 for Buffalo.
An ugly, herky-jerky start favored UB, who found some success from beyond the arc and muddled the game defensively. Even as it appeared the underdogs couldn't keep up in the frontcourt, racking up fouls and struggling on the offensive boards, they did find enough points and gritty defense to hold Miami to a 35-33 lead at half.
The Hurricanes slowly pulled away in the second, enough to weather late energy from UB to get within 72-68 with under two to play. The Bulls just couldn't hit the big shot they needed, as Xavier Ford did last year late against West Virginia.
Buffalo shot only 30% in the first half, but found little more success after the break, finishing 23-59 from the floor. Miami, meanwhile, dominated the interior, racking up 6 blocks and shooting 19-49 from inside the arc. Both Kamari Murphy and Davon Reed tallied double-digit rebounds.
The start for UB was nearly as ugly as in last season's loss to West Virginia - with two turnovers and three fouls (two on Ikenna Smart) in the first 75 seconds - but rebounded thanks to Perkins, stepping in for Smart and hitting a trio of early threes to at least initially provide some defense on Miami's big center Tonye Jekiri. Thanks to Perkins, fellow freshman Massinburg, and sophomore Bearden, the Bulls carried a lead into the final five minutes of the first half, their first in the NCAA Tournament after never leading the Mountaineers in 2015, and stayed within a single possession at the break.
But UB needed ten minutes to score from inside the three-point arc against Jekiri, Kamari, and the Miami frontcourt, and even that was a long two from Massinburg with his toe on the arc, and struggled throughout to get anything going inside except for Bearden's acrobatic lay-ups. The Bulls never solved that problem.
CJ, entering today's game with a shot at Javon McCrea's UB freshman scoring record, scored 7 in the first half and finished with 11 and 296 points on the season, four short of McCrea's mark. Defensively the freshman saw plenty of time on Miami's Sheldon McClellan, who has legitimate NBA prospects. Perkins' 20 points were a career high.
It's encouraging that underclassmen Massinburg, Bearden, and Perkins led UB, while disappointing that seniors Jarryn Skeete and Rodell Wigginton combined for 5 in their final game. Blake Hamilton also added 12. Bearden, despite his scoring line, tallied only three assists in 36 minutes.
The season ends with UB sporting a 20-15 record and a second straight year as MAC Champions. The 20 wins are a UB record for a first-year head coach, it's only the second time ever UB's had 20 wins in consecutive seasons, and the 43 wins over that stretch and 62 since Oats arrived in Amherst are program records, as well.
#UBDancing continues tomorrow afternoon, when Women's Basketball takes on Ohio State in Columbus at 2:30..