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Ohio Falls to Buffalo in MAC Tournament Semifinals

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Ohio’s hopes for a Mid-American Conference title are over.

The team that was thought to be a year away came a game away from a spot in the MAC title game.

The Ohio Bobcats (21-11) fell to the Buffalo Bulls (19-14) 88-74 in the MAC tournament semifinals  Friday night.

In the first half, Ohio struggled to put the ball in the basket.

“I mean, I guess it’s kind of frustrating a little bit, but we always knew that we’re a streaky team, so I knew that shots was going to start falling and we were going to start scoring in a matter of time,” Jaaron Simmons said.

At the half, Ohio was down 41-29. The team shot 3-12 from behind the arc and just 37 percent from the field. Ohio missed layups, threes and free throws while the Bulls made seven of their 14 3-point attempts.

“I told them we were squeezing too tight,” Ohio head coach Saul Phillips said. “I thought at times we would turn down a decent shot to throw it around and throw up at the buzzer.”

When the second half started it felt like a totally different ballgame. Ohio scored 11 points on its first four possessions, but it failed to trim that 12-point deficit. In fact, it lost ground on Buffalo because the Bulls scored 12 points in that stretch. Three minutes into the second half, Buffalo led 53-40, and the scoring did not stop.

The two teams combined for 32 points in the first 4:11 of the second half. Ohio scored 18 of them. Ohio managed to eventually cut Buffalo’s lead down to 55-47. From there, Treg Setty scored three points to make it just a five point game. Saul Phillips and the Bobcat faithful were fired up and Ohio seemed to be out of the funk it was in.

Ohio then went ice cold. The Bobcats failed to score over the next five minutes. During that time, Buffalo kept scoring. The Bulls tallied nine points and led 64-50 with 9:35 to go. Ohio worked and got the lead down to five after a Kenny Kaminski jumper with just under seven minutes to go, but that was as close as Ohio got. Within 90 seconds, Buffalo led by double digits again, and it stayed that way to the remaining 5:35.

The game began with Ohio scoring eight of the first 11 points, but Buffalo took a 14-11 lead on a 3-ball from Nate Perkins. After that, Ohio did not get that lead back. The Bulls scored seven of the next 11 points and led 21-15 with 8:46 remaining in the half. A dunk by Treg Setty and a 3-pointer by Jordan Dartis made it a 21-20 game. However, Buffalo went on a 20-9 run to close the half.

Antonio Campbell had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Simmons had 15 and eight assists. In his final MAC game, Setty had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Kaminski had 12 while Dartis chipped in 13.

Willie Connor and Blake Hamilton led the way for the Bulls. They scored 22 and 20 points, respectively.

At this time, it is unsure if Ohio will play in a postseason tournament, but as of right now, Phillips wants his team to keep playing.

“They deserve to play. They do. They earned it. They earned that right,” Phillips said.