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Bulls' defense sparks triumphant rally in CIT UB will face Iona in quarters

The University at Buffalo is still alive in the CollegeInsiders.com Tournament after edging Western Michigan, 49-48, Saturday at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

It wasn't the type of win the hot-shooting Bulls are used to having, but they pulled out the defensive struggle to advance to the CIT quarterfinals. UB will play at Iona on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. With the win, the Bulls recorded their third-ever 20-win season.

For the Bulls, who have been an offensive-minded team this season and average 71.5 points per game, a win is a win.

"If definitely wasn't an offensive masterpiece," UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "But we persevered defensively. For us to struggle as much as we did offensively and from the free-throw line and still win, says a lot about the character of our team."

Only one UB player scored in double-figures. Byron Mulkey had 11 points, four steals and three assists. Jawaan Alston had nine points and five boards. Mitchell Watt added eight points, while Javon McCrea had seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals.

After a UB turnover, Western Michigan had a chance to win at the end. But Demetrius Ward's off-balance jumper from the right side was just off the mark, ensuring the Bulls' season would continue.

Each team was held to its lowest scoring output of the season as the Bulls had trouble at the free-throw line all night. The Bulls were only 7 of 23 at the stripe, but made up for it on defense.

For the sixth time this season, UB held an opponent in the 40s. It forced 18 turnovers and held Western Michigan to only two points over the game's final 3:59. While both offenses had difficulty putting the ball in the basket, one final push by the Bulls late was the key.

UB trailed, 46-41, with less than four minutes to go. Jawaan Alston made a jumper to cut the deficit to three at the 3:54 mark. Mulkey had a steal, was fouled and hit his two free throws to make it a 46-45 game. And then with 2:40 remaining, Watt scored to give the Bulls the lead.

Western Michigan answered to retake the lead, but Zach Filzen's jumper in the paint with 1:50 remaining proved to be the game-winner, giving UB a 49-48 lead.

For Western Michigan, Alex Wolf had 13 points and Flenard Whitfield scored 12 points.

In the first half, the Bulls raced to an 18-8 lead, but stumbled into the break trailing, 26-23, after making only two field goals in the final eight minutes of the first half.

In the second half, Western Michigan (21-13) extended its lead to 41-32 with 11:09 left before the Bulls mounted their comeback. UB held the Broncos without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. In the process, UB outscored Western Michigan, 9-1.