Central Michigan 80, Buffalo 74
CLEVELAND (AP)—Giordan Watson scored a career-high 34 points and Central Michigan survived a frantic comeback by Buffalo for an 80-74 win in the opening round of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Wednesday.
The slick 5-foot-10 Watson, whose 19.8 scoring average in league games was tops in the MAC, made five 3-pointers to pace the Chippewas (13-17). At one point midway through the second half, Watson had single-handedly outscored the Bulls 30-29 and Central Michigan appeared on its way to a laugher.
But Buffalo, which trailed 57-27 with 13:46 remaining, never gave up and made it interesting in the final minutes. Pressing after every basket, the Bulls pulled within six on Andy Robinson’s 3-pointer with 7.3 seconds to go.
However, Watson was able to dribble through a double-team and weaved his way toward the basket as the clock ran out.
Sefton Barrett made three 3-pointers and added 13 points for Central Michigan, which made 12-of-22 3s. The Chippewas, who won the tourney in 2003, will play second-seeded Akron in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Robinson scored a career-high 27 points and Byron Mulkey 19 for the Bulls (12-19).
At halftime, Watson, a first-team All-MAC selection, had 23 points, matching Buffalo’s total, and the junior from Southfield, Mich., wasn’t finished.
He dropped his fifth 3-pointer in a 9-0 run to open the second half, and Central Michigan eventually built a 30-point lead. But the Bulls and coach Reggie Witherspoon wouldn’t quit and only ran out of time.
With Watson doing anything he pleased against Buffalo’s man-to-man defense, the Chippewas went on a 22-4 run in the first half to open a 40-23 halftime lead. Even when the Bulls had a hand in Watson’s face, he still managed to knock down shots.