CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo used a three-point barrage and a strong defensive effort to beat Miami Ohio in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday night.
UB hit 11 three-pointers in scoring a 94-81 victory. The Bulls held Miami to 37 percent shooting from the field.
The win moved the third-seeded Bulls into a semifinal meeting with second-seeded Ohio at 9 p.m. Friday. The result avenged one of UB’s ugliest losses of the season, a 67-59 decision at Alumni Arena just 11 days ago.
UB improved to 18-14. Miami, the No. 11 seed, ended its season 13-20.
UB never trailed after three minutes into the game. The Bulls’ lead hovered between 10 and 14 points for most of the second half.
UB was led by junior guard Willie Conner, who had 25 points. Junior forward Blake Hamilton had 11 points and 16 rebounds. Freshman guard CJ Massinburg had 10 points.
Miami was the No. 1 defensive team in the MAC, holding foes to 69.2 points a game. The 94 points was the most allowed by the RedHawks this season.
UB shot 50 percent from the field and made 11 of 25 three-pointers. The Bulls averaged seven treys per game this season.
First half: UB took a 37-31 lead into intermission. The Bulls shot 56 percent from the field and held Miami to just 27.6 percent shooting.
UB would have had a bigger lead but it made just 1 of 7 free throws over the last three minutes of the half. The Bulls held a 34-25 advantage after Massinburg scored on a drive and hit two free throws. But McKnight scored six points in the final 2:02 to keep the RedHawks close. He hit four free throws and a 15-foot jumper in that span. Another reason Miami stayed close was it didn’t give away possessions. It made only three turnovers.
Hot streak: Miami started the MAC season 0-7. But the RedHawks got hot at the right time. They scored upsets over four higher seeded teams over the past three weeks (No. 1 Akron, No. 3 Buffalo, No. 5 Kent State and No. 6 Ball State).
Pace: The game was a contrast in styles. Miami played at the slowest tempo in the MAC, averaging 65.2 possessions per 40 minutes, according to the analytics site kenpom.com. That ranked 334th out of 351 Division I teams in the nation. UB played at the fastest pace in the MAC this year and ranks 23rd in the nation. The Bulls average 73.1 possessions per 40 minutes. UB ranked 23rd in the nation in pace last year, too.
Depth: Both teams relied on their bench this season. Both have nine players averaging 12 minutes or better. Miami ranks 11th in the nation in bench minutes, with reserves seeing 41 percent of the action. UB ranks 132nd in bench minutes, with reserves seeing 34 percent of the action.
Senior-laden: Miami has an unusual roster. The RedHawks have seven seniors on scholarship, no freshmen and just one junior. The lone junior is a walk-on who transferred from a Division III school. Miami would have had three juniors but two Australian sophomores from last season opted over the summer not to return to the school.
Series: UB won the first meeting on the road, 77-60. Miami won the second at Alumni Arena, 67-59. That was on UB’s senior night, on March 1. UB relied too much on outside shooting in that game. The Bulls averaged 20.6 three-point attempts a game. They attempted 31 three-pointers in that defeat and made just 10 (32.3 percent). Miami leads the series, 23-14. UB had won six straight before the most recent loss.
In the house: The crowd was about 1,500 in Quicken Loans Arena.
Up next: The winner meets Ohio, which scored an 79-62 victory over Northern Illinois in Thursday’s quarterfinals.