You could almost see a trail of dust follow the University at Buffalo basketball players into the locker room at halftime of Saturday's game against Ohio University.
Whoosh. UB kicked its offense into high gear with five minutes to go in the half and turned a tie game into a 14-point intermission lead.
The score-in-a-hurry Bulls kept their foot on the gas and blew out Ohio University, 108-82, before a crowd of 6,198 at Alumni Arena. The 108 points were the most for UB in their 20-year history in the MAC.
"The offense isn't what I'm worried about, it's the defense," said UB coach Nate Oats. "The defense was so-so in the first half, giving up 42 to a team that's struggled to score. . . . The first four minutes of the second half wasn't great, and then after that we picked the defense up."
"If we can get our defense shored up, this team can be a pretty dangerous team," Oats said. "That's been our talking-point for the past month. I thought we made improvements on it today."
UB improved to 21-8 overall and 13-3 in the MAC. With two games to go in the regular season, UB needs just one win or one Toledo loss to clinch the No. 1 seed for the MAC Tournament. Ohio is 12-16 and 5-11.
UB ranks 14th in the nation in offensive pace. It's first in the Mid-American Conference in scoring, field-goal percentage, rebounding and assists.
"This group is real unselfish," said UB junior guard Dontay Carruthers. "So everybody knows if you're driving or you see a guy open that's the first thing you do – get them the ball. I think everybody did a great job at that tonight."
UB put six players into double figures. Junior forward Nick Perkins scored 21 points. Caruthers had 19 and junior guard C.J. Massinburg 15. Senior guard Wes Clark and junior forward Jeremy Harris each had 12, and sophomore guard Davonta Jordan had 11.
For the season, Massinburg and Perkins are averaging 17 a game, and Harris and Clark are at 15 a game.
"If you look at our top four scorers, we've got four guys averaging in double figures, but Perk is a big so he doesn't get heavy assists," Oats said. "But Wes and Jeremy and C.J. share the ball great for big-time scorers."
High scoring: The Bulls stood 11th in the nation in scoring on Saturday at 84.8 ppg. The Bulls' field-goal percentage of .502 leads the MAC. In their NCAA Tournament season of 2014, UB averaged 74.6 points and shot .435. In UB's NCAA Tournament season of 2015, it averaged 77.4 points and shot .437.
Second-half slumps: UB's defense had worn down in the second half over the previous seven games. The Bulls allowed 33 points a game in the first half but 49 points a game in the second half over that stretch. The Bulls were 4-3 in those games.
Hard-hat award: Caruthers showed up at the postgame news conference holding a UB construction hat. Oats hands out a Blue-Collar Award after every game for the player who gets the most deflections, steals, blocks, rebounds and loose balls, charges taken and floor dives. Massinburg and Jordan each have won the award eight times this season. Caruthers hit 8 of 12 shots and his 19 points came in just 18 minutes. UB was plus-27 in points when he was on the court.
"He didn’t turn the ball over tonight, and his defense was great," Oats said. "He's the reigning MAC defensive player of the year. I told him let's take ownership of the defense."
Scoring list: Massinburg moved past Rodney Pierce and into 13th place on UB's career scoring list with 1,236 points.
Up next: UB plays at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Akron, then closes the regular season Friday at Bowling Green.