BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team defeated Central Michigan, 64-50, in the first round of the FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament at Alumni Arena on Tuesday night. The Bulls advance to Cleveland where they will face top-seed Kent State on Thursday night at 7:00 pm.
Zach Filzen led all scorers with 21 points, including five three-pointers. His first trey of the game gave the Bulls the lead for good at 5-3. He hit back-to-back three-pointers to increase the UB advantage to 15-4.
Central Michigan hung around for much of the first half and trailed 30-26 at the break. The Chippewas whittled the lead down to 36-34 with 16:11 left. Byron Mulkey drained a three-pointer to extend the UB advantage to 44-36.
After Central Michigan cut the lead back down six, a scrappy Buffalo five came up with the turning point of the game. Mulkey had the ball poked away with the shot clock winding down and was forced to heave a desperation shot from beyond half court. His shot grazed the iron to avoid the violation and Mitchell Watt came up with the ball. Dave Barnett knocked down a three-pointer to extend the UB lead to nine. Filzen connected on a three-pointer from the corner on the Bulls' next possession to put UB ahead, 50-38, with 7:53 remaining.
Barnett had a great all-around game for the Bulls as he finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists. Mulkey also scored 11 points and added four assists and three steals. Jawaan Alston was the fourth UB player to reach double-figures with 10 points.
Watt had a team-high nine rebounds and four blocked shots. The Bulls outrebounded the Chippewas, 35-34.
Defensively, the Bulls held Central Michigan to 50 points on just 34 percent shooting. Buffalo forced 14 turnovers, had eight steals and blocked eight shots.
"I told our guys to be prepared for a 12-round fight. I thought Central played really hard," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "They tried to take away our first options and I think it took us a while to get into a rhythm offensively. It was a good test for us. I thought our guys stayed aggressive."