Senior guard Jeremy Harris scored 31 points as No. 18 Buffalo earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season with an 87-73 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday in the Mid-American Conference championship game at Cleveland.
Senior guard CJ Massinburg and sophomore guard Jayvon Graves added 17 each as the Bulls (31-3), the MAC’s top-seeded team, advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years under head coach Nate Oats, who signed a five-year extension with the program on Thursday.
Sophomore guard Justin Turner and sophomore forward Daeqwon Plowden scored 16 points each for third-seeded Bowling Green (22-12), which was the last team to beat Buffalo when it pulled off a 92-88 victory at home on Feb. 1.
The Bulls have now won 12 consecutive games since that last defeat, including two wins against Bowling Green. Buffalo, which set a MAC record for victories in a season, now has two 12-game winning streaks after opening the season by taking its first dozen games.
The Bulls, who have been ranked for 18 consecutive weeks, figure to improve on the No. 13 seed they had in last year’s NCAA Tournament, when they knocked off fourth-seeded Arizona in the first round.
Buffalo became the first MAC school to make the NCAA Tournament four times in a span of five seasons, starting the streak in 2015 under former head coach Bobby Hurley.
Just like in Friday’s semifinal against Central Michigan, Buffalo trailed with less than 10 minutes remaining. But the Bulls went ahead 66-65 with 8:03 remaining on a 3-pointer by junior guard Davonta Jordan, who finished with 11 points.
Buffalo built the lead to seven points at 72-65 with 5:48 remaining after a pair of free throws by Graves, but Bowling Green closed to within 74-71 after a free throw from senior forward Demajeo Wiggins with 4:25 remaining. Wiggins finished with 14 points.
Not only did Buffalo senior forward Nick Perkins commit his fourth foul to send Wiggins to the line, he fouled out when he was called for a technical while arguing the call.
But Buffalo went on a 12-0 run from there, with Harris scoring seven of the points, to take an 86-71 lead with 1:18 remaining, and the Bulls closed it out from there.
A victory would have given Bowling Green its first spot in the NCAA Tournament since 1968.
—Field Level Media