Oh, isn’t March fun?
The Miami RedHawks kicked off college basketball’s craziest month by giving No. 21 Buffalo a scare at Millett Hall on Friday.
It took the Bulls making some clutch shots and holding Miami (15-14, 7-9 Mid-American) scoreless in the final minute to survive 77-69. The win ensures Buffalo (26-3,14-2 MAC) a share of the regular-season MAC title.
“I’ve never, ever been a part of a game like that,” Miami head coach Jack Owens said. “I just knew it would even out somehow, once we settled down.”
Things looked bleak for the RedHawks early. Eighteen-to-nothing bleak.
Less than four minutes after the opening tip, Buffalo went up 18-0 with a run that included three 3-pointers.
“I feel like, if we didn’t spot them 18 points, it would’ve been a different outcome,” junior forward Bam Bowman said.
Miami finally got on the board with a Bowman layup at the 15-minute mark.
“At the end of the day, you can’t get down that much and try to come back from that big of a deficit,” Owens said. “But, I’m just proud of the guys’ fight.”
The RedHawks gave Owens a reason to be proud. They almost proved him wrong.
After the 18-0 start, Miami finished the first with a 33-19 stretch, including a 14-0 run, to pull within four (37-33) heading to the halftime break.
“We just got on the same page,” Bowman said. “Everybody bought into what Coach Owens was saying, and we were able to make a run.”
The first half was sloppy for both teams. Each side turned the ball over 10 times.
Coming out of the intermission, the RedHawks pulled within two points (41-39) on a layup from sophomore guard Jalen Adaway. From there, the Bulls emulated their early-game dominance.
In just four minutes, they stunned Miami with an 11-2 run that put them back up by double digits. Buffalo’s advantage stayed around 10 points for the next seven minutes.
The RedHawks borrowed some energy from the feisty home crowd and made their second large comeback of the game. Down 67-52, they stormed back with a 15-2 run that featured eight points from sophomore guard Nike Sibande.
After the two teams traded 2-point baskets, UB senior forward Nick Perkins hit a 3-pointer to kill Miami’s Cinderella dreams.
The final minute was a 4-0 Bulls run, sealing a 77-69 Buffalo victory.
Buffalo won the rebounding battle 44-38 and shot 42.6 percent from the field and 32.4 percent from 3-point land. The RedHawks converted on 40 percent of their looks from the field and 20 percent from three.
Miami drew 3,026 spectators into Millett Hall, which is the highest attendance since Wally Szczerbiak’s return to campus on February 9, last year.
“It was great,” Bowman said. “They brought a lot of energy, and it fueled us in the comeback. We fed off of it, and we were right there at the end, but it didn’t go our way.”
Sibande and sophomore forward Dalonte Brown paced the RedHawks with 15 points each, while Bowman recorded a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double.
Four Bulls finished with double-digit scoring totals: senior guard CJ Massinburg (game-high 20 points), sophomore guard Jayvon Graves (13), Perkins (13) and junior guard Davonta Jordan (12). Massinburg also completed a double-double with 10 boards.
Despite staying in the game to the end, Miami never held the lead.
Because of Bowling Green’s Friday win over Kent State, the Bulls will have to wait at least a few more days to outright clinch the regular-season MAC title.
The RedHawks stay in Oxford for their final home game of the regular season on Tuesday. They host Kent State and are scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.