BUFFALO REPEATS AS MAC MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS - Mar 13, 2016
Blake Hamilton (6'6''-G/F-94) made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left as Buffalo defended its Mid-American Conference title - and pulled off a rare double for the school - with a 64-61 win over Akron in the title game on Saturday night.
Hamilton's shot from the right wing sent the third-seeded Bulls (20-14) back to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season after Buffalo lost its coach and two of its top players. But the Bulls are stampeding into the NCAAs again and so are Buffalo's women, who beat Central Michigan in overtime for their first MAC championship earlier.
The Zips (26-8) had one last chance, but a long inbounds pass was picked off by Hamilton. When the clock showed zeroes, the Bulls poured onto the floor mobbed each other around the center circle. Moments later, they were joined by their schoolmates and fellow champions, who set the tone for the greatest day in Buffalo basketball history.
Two titles. Dou-Bulls.
Freshman CJ Massinburg (6'3''-G-97) scored 18 for Buffalo and Hamilton had 14 and 11 rebounds.
Antino Jackson (5'11''-PG-96) had 14 points for Akron, which may have to sit home and watch the NCAA tourney for the third straight year.
It's a remarkable run for these Bulls, who won their first championship last year under coach Bobby Hurley. The program then took a major hit when Hurley accepted the job at Arizona State and took guard Shannon Evans (6'1''-G-94) with him.
If that wasn't tough enough, Justin Moss (6'7''-F-93, college: Buffalo), the conference's player of the year in 2015, was kicked out of school after he was involved in an on-campus robbery.
But first-year coach Nate Oats , an assistant under Hurley, got his player to believe and the Bulls put it together just in time. They beat second-second-seeded Ohio and then took down the top-seeded Zips, who were appearing in their eighth final in 10 years.
Akron now must hope its resume is strong enough to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Lamonte Bearden (6'3''-G-95) added 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Buffalo. Willie Conner (6'4''-G-93) scored just 7 in the finale, but was named the tournament's MVP.
Isaiah Johnson (6'10''-C-94), the Zips' beefy center, scored 12 points - but only 2 in the second half, perhaps worn out playing his third game in three days. Akron, which has relied on 3-pointers all season, went 13 of 33 behind the arc.
The Bulls opened the second half with a 16-2 run to take control - temporarily.
Hamilton spent the final 13 minutes of the first half on the bench with two fouls, but he dropped a 3-pointer to trigger the run, and when Massinburg hit another 3 to make it 49-35, Buffalo's blue fans roared loud enough to be heard all the way back in Tonawanda.
Akron, though, fired back.
One of the nation's deadliest 3-point shooting teams, the Zips made five 3-pointers in a span of 5:26 and were within 54-53 when Reggie McAdams (6'7''-F-93) knocked a 3 down from the corner.
The Zips took their first lead on Johnson's basket with 6:50 left, but only stayed ahead for 1:43.
Courtesy of MAC
MAC Tournament Final: Buffalo - Akron 64-61 MAC Tournament Semifinals: Akron - Bowling Green 80-66 Buffalo - Ohio 88-74
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