CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team had no false sense of security heading into its quarterfinal game against Miami University in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Thursday night.
UB is the No. 3 seed in the MAC, and Miami is the No. 11 seed. But Miami has beaten the Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 6 seeds in the last 17 days.
That run includes a 67-59 victory over UB at Alumni Arena. It was UB’s lowest point total in the last three months.
“They embarrassed us the last time we were out here,” UB coach Nate Oats said. “It was Senior Night, the last game they’re going to play at home. So I hope it’s fresh in their minds. I hope there would be a little added motivation to come with a little better sense of urgency than the last time we played them.”
“I think last game it was more us mentally,” said UB forward Blake Hamilton. “We weren’t mentally ready to come into that game. We just had three real good practices. I think we’re ready to go.”
Game time at Quicken Loans Arena is about 9 p.m. (Radio 1520, TWCSN).
Akron enters as the No. 1 seed, but the tournament appears more wide open than last year, when second-seeded UB beat top-seeded Central Michigan for the title. Akron has lost three of its last seven, including a game to Miami. Ohio finished second at 11-7. UB was among four teams that finished 10-8.
“I think we saw anyone can win in this league, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the first or 12th team, you’ve got to bring your A game,” said UB senior Jarryn Skeete.
The UB-Miami game is a contrast in styles. UB played at the fastest tempo in the MAC. Miami played at the slowest.
“We’ll most definitely try to speed them up,” said UB guard Lamonte Bearden. “But they try to use the whole shot clock.”
Miami upset Ball State in a pre-quarterfinal, 49-47.
“They literally took the ball under 10 seconds on the shot clock probably 80 percent of the possessions,” Oats said of that game. “They won without even scoring 50. We don’t want to play like that. Our guys don’t like playing like that. We would rather get up and down.”
Miami’s trademark is its defense, which allowed the fewest points per game in the MAC (69.2) and ranked third in shooting percentage allowed (.438). In the regular-season game against UB, Miami packed in a zone defense. UB did not move the ball well and settled for repeated ill-advised three-pointers.
“They switch defenses so many times,” Oats said. “They go from a 1-2-2 to a 2-3 to a 1-3-1 to a switching man to straight man, to man where they do different stuff. Every time down the floor you’re liable to see something different on defense.”
UB ranked fourth in the MAC in scoring, first in rebounding and third in free throw attempts. The Bulls do a good job of getting into the lane for shots, especially against man defense. Miami ranked last in scoring and last in field-goal percentage.
The challenge for UB’s defense will be to contain Miami’s starting guards, Eric Washington (13.9 ppg) and Geovonie McKnight (13.2 ppg). They combined for 38 points in the win over the Bulls last week.
“It’s as good as any backcourt in the league as far as getting in the lane,” Oats said.