CLEVELAND (AP) Jeremy Harris scored 23 points and Dontay Caruthers added 12 as No. 18 Buffalo impressively opened the postseason with an 82-46 win over Akron in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Thursday.
The top-seeded Bulls (29-3) built a 20-point lead in the first half and pushed it to 30 points midway through the second half. Buffalo, which is seeking its fourth MAC title in five years, will play the Kent State-Central Michigan winner in Friday’s semifinals.
Buffalo got just 10 points from C.J. Massinburg, the MAC’s Player of the Year, and still rolled to its 10th straight win.
Loren Cristian Jackson scored 16 to lead No. 8-seeded Akron (17-16). The Zips were held to just 24 percent shooting.
Without much fanfare, Buffalo has been one of college basketball’s most consistent teams all season. The Bulls’ three losses were all on the road and they pulled off wins at West Virginia and Syracuse. They’ve already done enough to deserve an NCAA at-large berth, but if their first performance in the MAC tournament is any indication, the Bulls aren’t going to assume anything.
And there’s plenty to improve upon.
Buffalo won handily despite shooting 44 percent from the field and missing 10 free throws.
The Bulls squeezed Akron on the defensive end in the first half and used a 22-2 run to open a 20-point lead. Buffalo, which has balance, depth and no major weakness, pulled away without much involvement from Massinburg. He didn’t score his first basket until eight minutes left in the half, giving Buffalo a 28-8 lead.
Buffalo coach Nate Oats’ agent is in negotiations with the school about another contract extension. He received a five-year one during last year’s MAC tourney.
His current deal runs through 2023 and pays Oats a $600,000 base salary. Buffalo’s success has raised his profile and the school would like to keep him – for the right price. Oats, who is in his fourth season at Buffalo, has had the Bulls in the national rankings for most of this season. And while he’ll graduate five seniors, Buffalo has two junior college transfers as well as some highly touted recruits coming in.
Akron: Poor-shooting in the first half doomed the Zips. They started 1 of 12 from the field and couldn’t figure out a way to penetrate Buffalo’s defense. … Guard Jimond Ivey is the only senior and graduating player on the roster, so coach John Groce will have a solid nucleus to work with next season. … Lost seven of its last nine.
Buffalo: The Bulls are the first MAC team ranked in the AP Top 25 to play in the conference tournament since Ball State in 1989. … The Bulls are no longer a national secret after stunning Arizona in the NCAA Tournament last year. They’ll likely be the highest seeded team in MAC history when the NCAA pairings are announced on Sunday.
Akron: Unlikely to get an NIT bid.
Buffalo: Defeated Kent State twice and downed Central Michigan by 14 in its only matchup with the Chippewas.
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