CLEVELAND — Forward Xavier Ford and guard Shannon Evans each scored 18 points and Buffalo advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history after defeating Central Michigan 89-84 in the Mid-American Conference title game on Saturday night.
Bulls coach Bobby Hurley also guided his team to its first outright MAC East Division title and the tournament’s No. 2 seed in his second season at Buffalo. The former Duke standout led the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances and the national title in 1991 and 1992 as a player.
Buffalo (23-9) lost both regular-season games between the teams but went ahead for good early in the second half and finished with six players scoring in double figures.
Forward Justin Moss, the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, played through a foot injury to score 10 points and grab 11 rebounds. He was hurt during the team’s final practice before the tournament and was held to five points in Friday’s semifinal win over Akron.
Guard Chris Fowler led Central Michigan (23-8) with 27 points. The Chippewas were the tournament’s top seed after finishing 10-21 overall and 3-15 in the league last season. Keno Davis, in his third season at Central Michigan, was named the conference coach of the year.
Ford scored 11 points in the first half and Buffalo led Central Michigan 42-39 at halftime.
The Bulls trailed for most of the half but used a 10-0 run to spark their comeback against the Chippewas.
Moss’ three-point play gave Buffalo a 34-32 lead with 3:49 remaining in the half.
Fowler led Central Michigan with 13 points and forward John Simons added nine before halftime.
NOTES: Central Michigan was trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003 and for the fifth time overall. … This season marks the first time that a team from Ohio hasn’t made it to the title game of the MAC tournament since in 2000. … The game was tied three times in the first half. … The Chippewas’ last NCAA appearance was led by C Chris Kaman.
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