Bulls Hold Off Western Michigan to Advance in the CIT
KALAMAZOO, MI – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team outlasted Mid-American Conference rival Western Michigan, 49-48, in the second round of the CollegeInsiders.com Postseason Tournament in Kalamazoo, MI on Saturday afternoon. The Bulls advance to the quarterfinal round and will play at Iona on Tuesday night.
The win gives Buffalo just its third 20-win season in school history – all coming in the past seven years.
It was a defensive battle at both ends as each team was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.
The Bulls jumped out to an 18-8 lead, but limped into the locker room trailing 26-23 after making just two field goals in the final eight minutes of the first stanza.
Western Michigan (21-13) extended its lead to 41-32 with 11:09 left before the Bulls mounted their comeback. Using stifling defense, the Bulls held the Broncos without a field goal for nearly seven minutes while outscoring Western Michigan, 9-1. A Mitchell Watt layup cut the Broncos' lead to 42-41 with 4:38 remaining.
Consecutive layups by Flenard Whitfield put the Broncos up, 46-41, with 3:59 left. The Bulls scored six unanswered points and a Watt jumper gave the Bulls their first lead of the second half, 47-46. Juwan Howard, Jr. hit a jumper at the other end to regain the lead for the Broncos, 48-47, with 2:20 left.
Zach Filzen, who was quiet all game, hit a mid-range jumper with 1:50 left that proved to be the game-winner. Western Michigan had chances down the stretch, but the Bulls clamped down defensively. UB forced Demetrius Ward into an off-balanced jumper that he missed as time expired.
Byron Mulkey led Buffalo's defensive charge with four steals to go along with a team-high 11 points. Fellow senior Jawaan Alston had a solid all-around game with nine points and five rebounds. Watt had eight points and Dave Barnett and Javon McCrea each added seven. McCrea had a team-high seven rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
The game might not have been as close if the Bulls hadn't struggled so mightily at the free throw line. UB converted just 7-of-23 attempts from the charity stripe.
"It definitely wasn't an offensive masterpiece," head coach Reggie Witherspoon joked after the game. "But we persevered defensively. For us to struggle as much as we did offensively and from the free throw line and still win, says a lot about the character of our team."
Buffalo will play at Iona on Tuesday night at 7:30 pm.