Men's basketball falls to Buffalo in closing minutes, questionable call left unreviewed
There was just over two minutes remaining in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinal game and Central Michigan was giving the No. 18 team in the country everything they had.
The game was tied at 76 all. CMU, the No. 5-seed had Buffalo on the ropes on a night where the Bulls shot 18.8 percent from beyond the arc.
C.J. Massinburg drove the ball with the shot clock dwindling down and as he went up for a shot, the horn appeared to sound before the ball left his hands from the naked eye.
Instead, play wasn't stopped and he was fouled. The MAC Player of the Year made 1-of-2 free throws.
Later, when he was at the line again, Massinburg sunk two more from the charity stripe to put the Bulls up two possessions with 6.5 seconds and the score at 85-81.
CMU had to rush down the floor, fumbled to find the ball and player to shoot and time ran out, leaving the Chippewas to wonder what could've been if they were only down three. That four-point lead would stand as the final one.
Nevertheless, the top-seeded Bulls (30-3) knocked No. 5 Central Michigan (23-11) out of the MAC Tournament in the semifinal round.
Head coach Keno Davis asked for an explanation of the play during and after the game for not reviewing the potential shot clock violation. He was told the play was nonrenewable unless the ball went through the hoop.
"Technically, the way it's written in the rule book, unless the ball goes in the basket, they can't technically look but what officials will say is we're looking for a timing error, and they'll always review it," Davis said. "They did not look at it tonight even though you could clearly tell that the ball was in his hand.
"So a point here, a point there, but definitely in a crucial situation, disappointing to not get the review."
Buffalo didn't waste any time getting out in transition to start the game.
Jayvon Graves soared through the air to an open basket and stuffed it down with one hand to cap off an 11-5 run to open the game for the Bulls.
However, CMU made adjustments on defense to hedge through screens and contest the Bulls shots. On offense, the Chippewas capitalized.
Roundtree and sophomore guard Matt Beachler netted back-to-back 3-pointers and CMU had its first lead of the night at 21-18 with 10:22 left in the half.
Buffalo would start to answer, but CMU didn't let the lead get away.
Junior guard Kevin McKay weaved his away around the paint, crafting looks from under the hoop to give himself 10 points in the half and guide the Chippewas to a 42-37 lead heading into the locker room.
Confidence was sprouting through the Chippewas as they ran off the floor clapping hands and showing a sense of accomplishment.
Buffalo came out storming. CMU, once again, weathered it.
Back-to-back triples from Rob Montgomery gave CMU a 52-47 lead in the early parts of the second half. Roundtree then proceeded to hit his third 3-pointer of the night to give CMU its largest lead of the game at 56-49 with 15:48 to go.
Massinburg would hit a corner triple, followed by a Montgomery 3-pointer that banked off the glass. The Bulls' Jeremy Harris responded with a tip-in on the other end, and then on the ensuing possession Graves did the same thing.
The Chippewas had adversity to face and saw their lead dwindle down to one point, 68-67, with 8:27 to play. Davis took a timeout.
Buffalo didn't ease up. They came back with even more force.
A 3-pointer from Harris on the left wing left him turning to the crowd and flexing his muscles, giving his team a 72-70 lead over CMU with 7:46 to go. It was the Bulls first lead since 13:19 in the first half.
The Chippewas cooled the game down for the coming minutes, leaving the score at 76 all heading into the final 3:33.
Despite the arguable shot clock violation, Roundtree missed a free throw down the stretch and his team down two points. Massinburg made both of them on the other game and ultimately decided CMU's fate.
Montgomery led the Chippewas with 17 points while adding seven rebounds. Austin and Roundtree both tallied 16 points, but Austin added four assists and now holds the CMU program single-season record with 200 assists. McKay added 14 points and junior forward David DiLeo added 10 points, respectively.
Montgomery said the group of guys were hungry all season because they were looked passed before getting a chance at CMU.
"We found a spot that was comfortable for us and we felt like it was home and we knew we had a chance to be special this year," Montgomery said. "Just played every game hard, left it out there and I think that's what made us special this year."
CMU shot 38.5 percent (10-of-26) from deep but were out-rebounded by a hefty 17 boards (47-30). It led to 18 second chance points for the Bulls.
With no guarantee of seeing another game unless the Chippewas accept an invitation to a postseason tournament, Roundtree spoke about his time as a Chippewa following the loss.
He said he couldn't be more grateful.
"You've got to understand, I was a guy that was told that I was one of the, you know, worst guys on the roster as far as talent-wise," Roundtree said with glassy eyes. "The bonds that I formed with this team, man, I'll cherish them for life.
"Those are my brothers. I don't think it's really hit me yet, but you know, something that I can just describe right now, I'm grateful to God, man. I'm grateful to God."