CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Buffalo Bulls defeated the Toledo Rockets 76-66 Saturday in the championship game of the 2018 Mid-American Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.
With the game tied 63-63 with 4:50 remaining, Buffalo went on a 9-0 run to open a 72-63 lead following a layup by Nick Perkins with 1:45 remaining. The run proved decisive as Toledo (23-11) scored only three points in the final moments.
It was the third Bulls tourney title in the last four seasons, again sending Buffalo (26-8) to the NCAA tournament with the MAC's automatic bid.
Senior Wes Clark led all scorers in the contest with 26 points, going 10-of-15 from the field. He was a perfect four-of-four from the free throw line and added five rebounds, three assists and four steals.
When asked about his performance, Clark said, “I just did everything (that) was needed for the team to win. I had not been playing my best, but we were winning. I was glad to be in this position.”
Perkins, the MAC Sixth Player of the Year, added 16 with five boards and a blocked shot. junior Jeremy Harris had ten with eight boards.
“I am obviously disappointed we didn't win.” UT head man Tod Kowalczyk said. “I'm disappointed we didn't win for our players, first and foremost, because I really believe that they deserved -- as good as they've been all season long, they deserved something special at the ending.
"Just because you deserve it, doesn't always mean you're going to get it or have luck on your side. I thought tonight, (we) couldn't have played any harder than we did tonight.”
Oats noted the Rockets' challenge -- and talent. “Give Toledo a lot of credit in playing without the Player of the Year. They have a lot of good players and they will be hard from in the future.”
Saturday's meeting of the two Division leaders was their first since opening MAC play Jan. 2. Buffalo took that decision 114-104 in an offensive explosion by both squads.
The Rockets opened an early 7-3 lead and then extended their advantage to 14-10 when Sanford hit a three from the top of the key a the 12:22 mark. UT kept the lead until the 4:49 mark when Ikenna Smart scored on a dunk. The slam was part of a 13-8 spurt by the East Division Champions to take a 34-29 lead at halftime.
Buffalo scored on a pair of three-pointers -- first by Perkins and then by Clark to open a 40-31 lead just 90 seconds into the second stanza.
Toledo then used a 9-2 spurt to close to within four, 44-40, on a steal and layup by Willie Jackson at the 15:52 mark.
In between, Clark started UB's decisive run with a jumper from the right wing, and added a pair of free throws. Perkins then scored on a layup to make the score 72-63 with 1:45 remaining.
Perkins went five of six in the second half en route to scoring 13 points. “It was me slowing down and just finishing (the plays). That was the difference for me, and that was finishing.”
The Rockets added four free throws, two each by Massinburg and Harris to make the final margin 10 points.
When asked about that decisive run, Sanford said. “The difference was on us. We were right there, like coach said, a couple bad turnovers back to back and missed wide open shots. It was just on us. We just missed a couple open shots that we've hit all year. If we hit those, it's a completely different ballgame.”
- Clark was named the tournament’s most outstanding player and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Harris, Sanford and Marreon Jackson from Toledo and Paul Jackson of Eastern Michigan,
- Saturday's meeting of the two Division leaders was their first since opening MAC play Jan. 2. Buffalo took that decision 114-104 in an offensive explosion by both squads.
- Neither team shot the ball well as UB went 28-of-61 from the fiend (45.9 percent) while Toledo went 21-of-57 from the floor.
- UB won the battle of the boards 38-34. They turned 13 Rockwets turnovers into 12 points and had 29 points coming off the bench (mostly from Perkins).
- When asked about the comradery on the team, Perkins said “It has been real fun playing basketball with these two guys (Clark and Harris) and the entire team.”
- The Bulls have their NCAA invitation to dance. They will know Sunday evening their seed and where they will play in the field of 68.
- A number of other MAC squads could receive invitations to other post-season tournaments.