Eastern Michigan (20-13) vs. Buffalo (19-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, March 13, 9 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Quicken Loans Arena (20,562) -- Cleveland, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: Eastern Michigan 15-3, Buffalo 13-2. Away Record: Eastern Michigan 4-10, Buffalo 6-6. Neutral Record: Eastern Michigan 1-0, Buffalo 0-1. Conference Record: Eastern Michigan 10-8, Buffalo 13-5. Series Record: Buffalo leads, 11-9.
GAME NOTES: The third round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament will conclude with a contest between the sixth-seeded Eastern Michigan Eagles and the third-seeded Buffalo Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena.
The winner of this third-round clash will move on to Friday's semifinal slate to face the second-seeded Toledo Rockets.
Eastern Michigan advanced past intrastate rival Central Michigan in the first round of the MAC Tournament, then defeated the Northern Illinois Huskies, 53-48, in the second round on Wednesday night to earn one of two vacant spots in the third round. Entering the contest with third-seeded Buffalo, the Eagles have won five of their last six games.
Buffalo leads the slim all-time series between the two teams, 11-9. The Bulls won the only meeting between the two squads earlier in the season, 76-66, back on Jan. 11.
Buffalo came on strong toward the end of the season to win the MAC East Division title and earn a 13-5 conference record, which was good enough to get the Bulls a double-bye into the third round. Buffalo enters the tournament having won five of its last six games, including the team's season-ending contest with Bowling Green, 88-65.
Northern Illinois jumped way ahead of Eastern Michigan at the end of the first half in Wednesday night's action, 35-24. But the Eagles came out as a completely different team in the second frame, holding NIU to just 14.3 percent shooting from the floor in the half, and outscored the Huskies, 29-13, to earn back the lead and take the victory. Karrington Ward posted a double- double with 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Eagles, while Glenn Bryant came off the bench to score 12 points and block four shots. J.R. Sims netted 11 points to help his Eagles advance past the Huskies to the MAC's third round.
Ward enters the contest with Buffalo averaging a team-leading 12.7 ppg for Eastern Michigan, adding an Eagles-high 6.6 rpg mark. Ward has played in all 32 games for EMU and tops the team with 48 steals on the season. Raven Lee chips in 10.3 ppg, and Mike Talley adds 10.2 ppg with a team-best 118 assists on the season. Eastern Michigan is averaging just 66.6 ppg, but has been able to maintain a steady pace in the league by only giving up 61.3 ppg to opponents.
Buffalo jumped ahead of Bowling Green by 10 points at the end of the first half on Saturday, 41-31, which was just the start of the team's dominance against the helpless Falcons. The Bulls piled on an additional 13 points to their lead in the second period en route to their crushing 23-point victory, which helped them clinch the MAC East Division crown. Once again for Buffalo, it was the Javon McCrea show against the Falcons, as the senior forward netted a game-high 34 points on Senior Night, adding six rebounds, four assists and two steals to his stat line. Joshua Freelove contributed 10 points, and Jarryn Skeete chipped in 11 off the bench with four assists for Buffalo.
McCrea is one of the better all-around players in the league, checking in at second in the MAC in scoring with 18.9 ppg and in rebounding with a 9.8 rpg clip, and third in the MAC with 2.2 blocked shots per contest. The Bulls, who were second in the league in scoring offense at 73.9 ppg, were aided by 13.1 ppg from Freelove and 10.4 ppg from Will Regan. Jarod Oldham led the team and was third in the MAC with 5.2 apg. As a team, Buffalo averaged 73.9 ppg and gave up 67.2 ppg to opponents.
Eastern Michigan has been hot, winning five of its last six games, but Buffalo has possibly the most well-rounded starting lineup in the conference, led by the senior McCrea. Though the Bulls aren't the favorite to take the MAC crown, they should at least be in the conversation having won the conference's East Division and owning one of the more balanced rosters in the league.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 76, Eastern Michigan 67
03/13 11:13:03 ET