Bulls hold off CMU’s upset bid, advance to MAC semis

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The No. 1 seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, the UB Men’s Basketball team held off 8-seed Central Michigan’s upset bid with an 89-74 victory on Thursday.

“I mean they gave us a tough game,” Head Coach Nate Oats said.  “We knew they were going to be tough. I talked to our guys about what it takes to get an upset — teams that shoot a lot of 3s. (CMU) shoot as many 3s as anybody in the league.

“It was a good win. Last year we didn’t make it out of Thursday so we’re happy to be at Friday.”

UB advances to the MAC semifinals, where they will face No. 5 Kent State Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena at 6:30 p.m.

The final score is not indicative of how close the game was. CMU led once — for a grand total of 30 seconds in the first half but managed to keep close throughout.

The Bulls led by nine at half and opened up a 14-point lead in the second half, but saw that narrowed to two by the Chippewas within the final minutes of the game.

“I thought our guys showed some resolve. When stuff didn’t go our way, we missed some puppies inside, missed some free throws, they could have hung their heads and really caved,” Oats added. “I thought we just kept fighting, kept fighting and we hit a couple big 3s there when it matters there at the end and blew the thing wide open.“

Jeremy Harris led the way scoring a career-high 27 points in the win, while CJ Massinburg chipped in with 18.

”I was just trying to win, play defense and get in transition,” Harris said.

Sixth Man of the Year Nick Perkins finished with 16 off the bench for the Bulls.

Leading 77-74 with two minutes to play, Wes Clark and Massinburg hit back-to-back three pointers to put the Bulls up 83-74 with 1:03 to play in the game.

In between those buckets, Dontay Caruthers came up big on the defensive end, picking up a charge to help turn the tide in the game.

“That’s something pride myself on, just trying to make myself different from everybody else,” Caruthers said.  “Anybody can score but every team needs that one guy that makes the tough plays.”

“He’s our defensive captain I call him,” Oats added. “He kind of runs our defense for us. I thought he did a great job.”

As a team the Bulls struggled from beyond the arc, connecting on 12 of their 30 attempts — with plenty of ugly misses mixed in.

At point in the second half, the Bulls missed four straight 3-pointers before Jayvon Graves got a friendly bounce to end the shooting spell and spark a mini run to extend UB’s lead to 62-51.

However, UB dominated the boards out-rebounding CMU 49-36 including 32 on the defensive end.

The Bulls also shared the ball extrnely well with assists on 24 of their 31 field goal attempts.

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