By MIKE SMITH
BUFFALO, NY – The Miami RedHawks have been prone to some poor starts this year, with the result being a large deficit to make up the rest of the way. That didn’t happen Saturday as MU not only stayed with the Bulls early, it owned a 32-29 halftime lead.
The poor start issue, however, resurfaced in the second half as Buffalo reeled off 12 straight points during a 16-4 run to start the second half. The Bulls then turned to forward Justin Moss down the stretch and held off a late MU charge to post a 77-68 win.
Moss, who had 22 second half points, finished with a career-high 31 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for his ninth double-double of the season. The Mid-American Conference scoring and rebound leader hit 10-of-15 shots from the floor and 11-of-15 at the free throw line. Shannon Evans had 17 and Xavier Ford added 13 for the Bulls.
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Three-point goals had been a huge problem for Miami earlier in the week as Central Michigan canned 19-of-27 while rolling past MU, 105-77.
But threes weren’t MU’s problem Saturday as Buffalo finished the day without a trey to its credit. The Bulls were 0-for-12 from beyond the arc, breaking a streak of 247 games with at least one three point goal.
Buffalo, now 12-4 (3-1 MAC), made up for the three-pointer deficiency in two places – the free throw line and the paint.
Moss and Evans combined for 20 points at the stripe, while overall the Bulls made 27-of-38 charity tosses to win for the 19th time in the last 20 contests at Alumni Arena. They also had a big advantage with points in the paint (46-28).
Miami made 14 of its 16 charity tosses. Eleven of those points came from point guard Eric Washington, who paced Miami with 17 markers. Geovonie McKnight (15) and Will Sullivan (14) also reached double figures.
Miami shot 37.1 percent (23/32) from the field for the game, while Buffalo connected on 44.6 percent (25/56) thanks to its strong inside play.
An eight-point run by MU late in the first half gave the RedHawks a 32-27 lead – the largest advantage by either team in the opening stanza. Ford’s tip-in at 1:33 turned out to be the final points of the period, and Miami took a 32-29 lead into the break.
It went back to five points when McKnight scored on a layup at 19:01 of the second period. Moss, however, answered with a mid-range jumper and layup. When Evans drained the second of two free throws at 17:45, Buffalo had the lead for good.
After another Moss layup, UB added free throws from Moss, Xavier Ford (2) and Raheem Johnson before Washington put two points up for MU with a pair of free throws at 12:32.
Rodell Wigginton and Evans responded with back-to-back slams to push the Bulls lead out to nine at 45-36.
Miami finally got its second field goal of the stanza at 10:53 when Sullivan scored on a layup. It was the first part of an 8-2 Miami run that pulled the visitors to within three at 47-44 with 8:58 left.
Buffalo responded with an 8-0 run that included two dunks and a tip-in that gave the hosts a double-digit lead at 55-44 with 5:37 remaining.
The RedHawks chipped away and closed it to 71-68 following a pair of free throws by Washington with 30 seconds to go. Moss (4) and Evans (2) then sealed the verdict with six straight free throws.
"Miami was feisty tonight, and I knew they would be coming off their last game. I knew they would play extremely hard and they did," said UB head coach Bobby Hurley. "I liked that we had to grind out a win and play a close game and find a way to come out on top. We didn't shoot it great today, but we found a way to get some offense going in the second half and Justin was a big part of that."
“In the second half, they went to their guy,” Miami head coach John Cooper said.
Miami (6-11, 1-3 MAC) resumes a tough opening stretch Wednesday when it hosts Western Michigan in Oxford (7 p.m. ET). Buffalo also has a tough assignment as it faces Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant (7 p.m. ET).