EditorsNote: updates fifth graf with next opponent
Senior guard Jeremy Harris scored 23 points and sophomore guard Jayvon Graves added 13 as No. 18 Buffalo had an easy time advancing to the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament with an 82-46 victory over Akron on Thursday in Cleveland.
Senior guard Dontay Caruthers scored 12 points, senior forward Nick Perkins added 11 and senior guard CJ Massinburg, the conference’s Player of the Year, added 10 points and nine rebounds for the top-seeded Bulls (29-3).
Buffalo is the first nationally-ranked team in the MAC tournament since Ball State was No. 19 in 1989.
Sophomore guard Loren Cristian Jackson scored 16 points for eighth-seeded Akron (17-16), which is bowing out of the tournament early after advancing to the semifinals in 12 of the past 13 years. Junior forward Daniel Utomi scored 12 points for the Zips.
Buffalo, the MAC tournament champion last season, advanced to Friday’s semifinals, where it will face Central Michigan, an 89-81 winner over Kent State on Thursday.
Buffalo’s aggressive nature was too much for the Akron defense to handle. The Bulls took 22 free throw attempts in the first half, while building a 38-21 lead at the break. It would have been bigger but the Bulls made just 12 of those 22 free throw attempts.
Zips reserve forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke fouled out less than four minutes into the second half after playing just seven minutes.
Buffalo led by as many as 20 points in the first half when it grabbed a 28-8 lead less than 13 minutes into the game. Massinburg had just four points in the first half on 2-for-7 shooting as he was able to assume a support role.
Akron entered 17th in NCAA scoring defense, allowing 63.3 points per game, and it did hold Buffalo three points under its season average, but the Zips could not muster enough offense to keep pace. The Zips made just four field goals in the first half.
The victory extended Buffalo’s school record for victories in a season and moved the Bulls one win from tying Kent State’s MAC record of 30 set in the 2001-02 season.
Buffalo improved to 3-0 against Akron this season with all three games taking pace since Feb. 12. The Bulls are 3-1 all-time against the Zips in the MAC tournament.
—Field Level Media