CAYMAN ISLANDS – Junior CJ Massinburg scored a game-high 29 points as the University at Buffalo men's basketball team nearly pulled off a monumental upset before falling 73-67 to #12 Cincinnati in the first round of the Cayman Classic.
The Bearcats benefited from a large advantage at the charity stripe as Cincinnati shot 27-for-35 from the free throw line, opposed to 11-for-17 for Buffalo in the six-point loss.
The Bulls got out to a quick start to the night as they opened the game on an 8-2 run, while Buffalo also outscored Cincinnati in the second half, 41-34. However, it was one five-minute period in the first half where the Bearcats went on a 12-0 run that was the difference in the contest.
Three pointers from Massinburg and junior Nick Perkins gave the Bulls the early 8-2 lead, but UB led for the final time at the 15:15 mark of the first half. The Bulls trailed by just one at 15-14 with 12:26 remaining when Cincinnati scored 12 straight points over a span of 5:05 to take a 27-14 lead before a three-point from junior Jeremy Harris would end the scoring drought. The Bearcats led by as many as 15 in the first half before taking a 39-26 lead into the break.
Despite some injuries and foul trouble, an undermanned UB squad found a way to get back into the game in the second half as they held Cincinnati to just 36.0% shooting over the final 20 minutes. Cincinnati led by 14 with 13:32 left when a three from Harris and a layup by Massinburg put the Bulls back within single digits at, 47-38.
The Bearcats regained a 55-43 advantage when the Bulls answered with an 8-1 run as a layup from Massinburg pulled the Bulls within five at 56-51 with 6:28 left. The Bearcats then scored six straight to go back up by 11, but the Bulls answered yet again. With Cincinnati leading 67-57 with 1:52 left, the Bulls got back-to-back three pointers from Perkins and Massinburg to pull within four at 67-63, their smallest deficit since early in the first half.
The Bulls got the stop on the defensive end on the ensuing possession, but couldn't get the rebound and they were forced to foul and send Cincinnati to the free throw line where it hit a pair. The Bulls cut it back down to four one more time with 24 seconds left, but got no closer.
"I am really proud of the effort and the fight of this group against a Cincinnati team that very well could make it to the Final Four this year," said head coach Nate Oats. "We hurt ourselves with turnovers and fouls, but we made them work for every basket. It is a quick turnaround so we need to learn from this one and be ready to play tomorrow."
Massinburg scored 29 points, his second straight 20-point game this year. He went 4-of-8 from three-point range, while also recording a team-high 10 rebounds. Harris had 17 points, his best regular season game of the season as he also hit four three-pointers. He added six boards.
Perkins finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, as that trio was responsible for 60 of the team's 67 points tonight. Freshman Jayvon Graves finished with three points, while Montell McRae and Dontay Caruthers each had two. Sophomore Davonta Jordan had a team-high four assists.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Bulls, as they will face UAB on Tuesday at 5:00 pm in the consolation bracket. The Blazers lost to Richmond earlier today, 63-50. The associate head coach of UAB is Buffalo basketball hall of famer, Turner Battle.