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UB beats Bowling Green, grabs bye for MAC first round

The University at Buffalo’s men’s basketball team can take Monday night off.

They earned a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference tournament through a combination of events that wrapped the MAC season on Friday night.

For starters, the Bulls had to win at Bowling Green. UB (17-14, 10-8 MAC) did that with a 87-83 victory.

Then, Buffalo needed two of three teams to lose on Friday night. In fact, all three teams eventually lost. Kent State and Ball State took care of that by losing to Akron and Northern Illinois respectively. Central Michigan also lost, falling to Western Michigan, but UB didn’t need help by then.

If UB had not earned a first-round bye, it would have hosted a game at Alumni Arena on Monday.

The Bulls received strong games from Blake Hamilton and Lamonte Bearden, who both scored 20 points. Willie Conner added 15 for UB.

For Bowling Green, Spencer Parker had 20 points. Both teams shot at least 50 percent in the game.

This was a dogfight most of the way. The Bulls’ situation looked a little desperate when they trailed, 81-77, with 2:17 to play. Hamilton answered with a traditional three-point play to cut the lead to one. Bearden made a layup with a minute left to put UB ahead, 82-81.

Parker answered with a jumper, but Bearden sank two free throws to put the Bulls ahead for good. The Falcons’ last good chance at taking the lead was wiped out by a turnover with nine seconds left when they trailed by two.

UB will be the third seed in the tournament and will play on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.