Win two games. That is all the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team has to do in order to punch their first ever ticket into the NCAA tournament. For four seniors, Mitchell Watt, Zach Filzen, Dave Barnett, and Titus Robinson, this is their last chance ever to leave their mark in UB history. After winning their last three games in the regular season with a big win on the road at Akron and sending the seniors out in style with a win on Saturday night against Bowling Green, the Bulls clinched the number 2 seed this weekend in Cleveland. By doing so the Bulls received two byes and don’t play until Friday night in the semifinals.
On Saturday February 25th, the Bulls defeated Miami of Ohio 84-74. The game was tied 31-31 at half, but the Bulls outscored the RedHawks by 10 in the second half. Mitchell Watt led the way with 28 points followed by Zach Filzen with 16 and Javon McCrea with 12. Point guard Jarod Oldham dished out 10 of the Bulls 22 total team assists. That Wednesday night the Bulls traveled to Akron for a huge conference game. With a win, the Bulls would still be in contention for the number 2 seed in the MAC. UB walked away from Rhodes Arena with a 74-70 victory. Once again the Bulls were led by Watt with 22 points. Tony Watson may have played his best game ever as a Bull scoring 14 points, including going 6-6 from the free throw line. Watson was clutch at the end of the game. Dave Barnett and Titus Robinson combined for 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists in the win.
Saturday night was a special night. It was senior night at Alumni Arena. The four seniors are the winningest class under Reggie Witherspoon with 77 wins and were looking to add-on that night. A win for UB would clinch the #2 seed and a bye into the semis. The Bowling Green Falcons came in with a 16-13 record and a 9-6 MAC record and were leading at halftime 31-30. McCrea led the scoring in the first half for the Bulls with 8 points and 7 rebounds. The second half was the Mitchell Watt show. Watt scored 14 points in the final 20 minutes leading the Bulls to a 68-64 win. Watt finished the game with 20 points, followed by McCrea with 11. Filzen attempted 9 shots, all three pointers, and connected on only 3, giving him 9 points on the evening. Robinson, Barnett, and Watson combined for 21 points off the bench.
That day, Mitchell Watt was named MAC player of the week. On Sunday, Watt found out that was named MAC player of the year as voted on by the MAC News Media Association. He is just the second UB player to earn the award as current assistant coach Turner Battle also took home the honor in 2005. Watt started all 28 games for the Bulls in the regular season, averaging 16 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.4 blocks per game, all career highs for the senior from Goodyear, Arizona. He ranks in the top four in the conference in five different categories, including scoring (4th), rebounding (4th), field goal percentage (4th), blocked shots (2nd) and defensive rebounds (3rd). After not attempting a three pointer in his first three years, Watt connected on 10-30 from deep stretching out the defense.
I will be making the trip down to Cleveland on Friday in hopes of returning to Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night for a chance to see the Bulls clinch their first ever ticket into the NCAA tournament. It has been a great regular season and hopefully the Bulls can stay hot for two games. I expect Watt to play like he has all year scoring 18+ in both games. That’s right, I am obviously going to say the Bulls will win on Friday night. The player that needs to show up is Filzen. Teams have been able to shut down the sharp shooter, so the Bulls need to find a way to get the senior hot. The bench who has played great all season, especially since Barnett was taken out of the starting lineup will also have to come up big in order to advance. I am very excited and can’t wait for tip off at 9:30.
For those of you that are not able to make the trip to Cleveland, make sure you tune in Friday on Sports Time Ohio. If you do not have direct tv, go to a bar and ask them to turn it on. The Sabres are off on Friday so cheer for the best team in Buffalo. Here are some video clips from senior night. Not the best quality but they are better than nothing.