CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo used a race-horse style and a three-point barrage Thursday night to beat Miami of Ohio in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Bulls hit 11 three-pointers in scoring a 94-81 victory before a crowd of 2,311 at Quicken Loans Arena. Junior guard Willie Conner led the Bulls with 25 points and hit 6 of 10 three-point shots.
The win moved the third-seeded Bulls into a semifinal meeting with second-seeded Ohio at 9 p.m. Friday. UB improved to 18-14. Miami, the No. 11 seed, ended its season 13-20.
The result avenged one of UB’s ugliest losses of the season, a 67-59 decision at Alumni Arena just 11 days ago. Miami, the top defensive team in the MAC, dictated the tempo in that game, holding UB to its lowest point total in the past three months.
This time UB produced the most points Miami has allowed all season.
“I thought we did a lot better job attacking their zones,” said UB coach Nate Oats. “They still had the switching zones and switching defenses. I thought we as a staff probably did a lot better job preparing them this time. And then they did a lot better job. It certainly helps to make some shots.”
The Bulls shot 50 percent from the field and made 11 of 25 from three-point range.
“I thought Buffalo played the game extremely well,” said Miami coach John Cooper. “It was very evident that they were going to take the game on and be aggressive off the bounce. And they’re extremely athletic and quick when they do it, and very good. Quite frankly, they beat us in all phases of the game.”
UB held a 47-35 rebounding edge. It held Miami to 37.7 percent shooting.
“I think we all just keyed in on defense,” Conner said. “When they played us at our house, we didn’t play defense too well. So tonight we wanted to play as aggressive as we wanted to play and take them out of their game.”
UB never trailed after three minutes into the game. The Bulls’ lead hovered between 10 and 14 points for most of the second half.
Junior forward Blake Hamilton had 11 points and 16 rebounds for UB. Sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden had added 14 points. Senior guard Jarryn Skeete had 13 and freshman guard CJ Massinburg had 10.
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 held a 37-31 lead at halftime. The Bulls opened the second half by hitting four straight three pointers. Conner hit two, Bearden made one from 27 feet at the top of the key, and Skeete hit one.
“I saw Willie firing away so I’m like, it gave me momentum,” said Bearden, who hit only 12 three-pointers during the regular season.
“If you can get a lead on them,” Oats said of Miami, “they can’t sit on the clock all night. If they’re playing from behind the whole night, it’s hard to milk 30 seconds off the clock, knowing you’re down 10 points the whole night. I thought we did a pretty good job. ... I think that helped speed them up.”
“The other thing was,” Oats added, “I told our guys we’re going to run every chance we get. You get them really to buy in and get some stops. And then off the stops, let’s get out and run. I thought we did a pretty good job of that in the second half.”
Miami, the lowest-scoring team in the MAC, made 9 of 22 three-point shots. The RedHawks averaged a MAC-low five three pointers per game this season. Those threes helped keep the game from being a blowout. Miami was led by Dion Wade’s 16 points.
UB lost both regular-season meetings with Ohio, getting blown out at home (94-75) and losing in overtime (103-96) on the road.