Men’s basketball faces No. 1 Buffalo in MAC Tournament quarterfinals
Late free throws iced the game for Buffalo against the Central Michigan men’s basketball team on Feb. 6 at McGuirk Arena, handing head coach Keno Davis’ team an 88-82 loss.
The Mid-American Conference Tournament gives the No. 8 seed Chippewas (19-13, 7-11 MAC) a chance at revenge against No. 1 Buffalo (23-8, 15-3 MAC) just over a month after the first meeting. The two teams will tipoff at noon on March 8 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
"We feel like we owe (Buffalo) one," said senior forward Luke Meyer. "They stole one from us here at home earlier this season, no one is giving us a chance but we will come in ready to surprise some people."
Since the loss to Buffalo, CMU has faced multiple ups and downs, but are currently riding a three-game winning streak. The Chippewas dropped Ball State and Western Michigan to finish the regular season.
In the opening round of the MAC Tournament, CMU fended off No. 9 Bowling Green (16-16, 7-11 MAC), 81-77, in overtime on March 5 at McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas opened overtime on a 7-0 run and never slowed down.
"We talked about if we could make it to Cleveland, we could make some noise,” Davis said. “Fortunately, we are playing our best basketball now and we are going to find out soon if it's good enough.”
CMU has four players scoring in double figures in senior forward Cecil Williams, senior guard Shawn Roundtree Jr., sophomore forward David DiLeo and sophomore guard Kevin McKay.
Williams and Roundtree lead the team scoring 15.2 points per game, followed by DiLeo (11.9) and McKay (11.8). Meyer averages 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, along with shooting 91.9 percent from the free throw line and 43.0 percent from 3-point range.
DiLeo, McKay and Williams are the top rebounders for CMU, logging 6.9, 6.6 and 6.3 rebounds per game, respectively. Roundtree leads the team with 3.9 assists per game.
Behind William & Mary, CMU is ranked No. 2 among NCAA Division I programs in free throw shooting. The Chippewas convert at the charity stripe 80.4 percent of the time. Meyer, McKay, Roundtree and senior guard Josh Kozinski all shoot over 84 percent from the line.
Buffalo has lost obly eight games this season to Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Miami (Ohio).
In the Bulls’ six-point victory against CMU earlier this season, junior guard Jeremy Harris poured in 22 points, three rebounds and three assists. In the final 28 seconds, senior guard Wes Clark went 4-of-4 from the free throw line to push his total to 16 points and ice the game.
“Buffalo, as we watched them on tape, was as advertised," Davis said after the first meeting. "I think in the first couple of minutes they showed why they are the best team in the conference, yet at the same time, I was proud of our effort. When things got tough, we didn't go away and that says a lot."
Junior guard CJ Massinburg added 18 points and junior forward Nick Perkins, the MAC Sixth Man of the Year, dropped in 13 points and seven rebounds for Buffalo at McGuirk Arena.
Massinburg, Perkins, Harris and Clark all averages in double figures for Buffalo, scoring 17.4, 16.7, 15.0 and 14.8 points per game, respectively. Massinburg leads the team in the rebounding category, pulling down 7.5 boards.
Clark, while he can score, is the primary distributor, sending out 5.4 assists per game. Sophomore guard Davonta Jordan, who has played in all 31 games, is second with 4.3 assists per game.
In the NCAA Division I RPI, Buffalo is ranked No. 32 of 351 programs. CMU sits in the No. 167 spot.
In its only battle during the 2017-18 season, CMU lost to Buffalo, 88-82, at McGuirk Arena.
Last season, Buffalo came out on top twice against CMU, winning 101-91 at home and 99-93 on the road at McGuirk Arena. In the Chippewas’ home loss, Marcus Keene scored 27 points.
Buffalo is 9-1 against CMU in the most recent 10 games.
The winner of CMU and Buffalo will play in the tournament semifinal game against either No. 5 Kent State or No. 4 Ball State at 6:30 p.m. on March 9. The winner of the MAC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.