The matchup between the men’s basketball team and Buffalo was determined by which team exposed the other’s greatest flaw.
Central Michigan struggles on defense, allowing the third-most points per game in the Mid-American Conference, and the Bulls turn the ball over more than any team in the MAC.
On Wednesday, Buffalo shined a brighter light on the Chippewas weakness, scoring a season-high in a 91-73 win.
“I don’t look at it as a 90-point game really,” said head coach Keno Davis. “The reason it was such a high-scoring game was because we had to press so much, so we gave up some easy buckets at the other end and fouled at the end of the game.”
CMU’s top two scorers trimmed the deficit to under double-digits from the free-throw line late in the game after the teams traded baskets for much of the second half.
Freshman forward Blake Hibbitts, who had 17 points, made two free-throws to bring it within 11.
Senior guard Kyle Randall missed the front end of the one-and-one, which is a rarity. However, there was a lane violation on the Bulls, and he made them pay, making both to cut the lead to nine with 6:07 left in the game.
With under four minutes to go, Randall took a shot from beyond the arc in transition that would have reduced the deficit to six, but it was blocked.
“I just misjudged where the defender was at,” Randall said. “It was probably a big turnaround because we were on the verge of a comeback, and I was confident going into that shot.”
Randall did return to form, in a losing effort, eclipsing 20 points for the first time since Jan. 12 against Toledo, with 23.
The Chippewas caused Buffalo to turn the ball over 19 times and scored 25 points off the Bulls miscues, but it was not enough after surrendering the lead early in the game.
Buffalo made it 10-4, going into the first media timeout of the first half, after two three-pointers, and never relinquished the lead.
Buffalo made six out of 12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Cooling off in the second, it still made 58 percent of its shots from the field.
“We are behind in trying to defend teams that have serious strength in the inside, combined with three-point shooting ability,” Davis said. “Blake Hibbitts and John Simons will be very good players, but it’s tough for them to be able to matchup.”
CMU and the Bulls both had two wins in the MAC entering the game that came against the same teams, Bowling Green and Ball State.
The Bulls now move into the middle of the pack in the East Division, and the Chippewas remain in last in the conference with a 2-5 conference record.
CMU returns to Mount Pleasant to play Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Saturday at McGuirk Arena.