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Buffalo downs Central Michigan for MAC title

Mar 15, 2015 - 1:52 AM Cleveland, OH ( - Xavier Ford scored 18 points to help Buffalo to the MAC Tournament title with an 89-84 decision over Central Michigan on Saturday night.

Shannon Evans also netted 18 points and MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss posted 10 points and 11 rebounds for the second-seeded Bulls (23-9), who earned their first conference title and will appear in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history under second-year head coach Bobby Hurley.

Chris Fowler led all scorers with 27 points and John Simons tallied 13 points with nine rebounds for the top-seeded Chippewas (23-8).

The second half was played close, and Fowler's layup midway through cut Central Michigan's deficit to 59-58. Evans then capped a quick 7-2 flurry for the Bulls to give them a 66-60 edge.

Ford knocked down a 3-pointer minutes later, then Jarryn Skeete fired in a jumper to close another 7-2 burst for a 77-68 edge with 4:14 left. Skeete converted a 3 to push the margin to double digits for the first time on the night with over two minutes remaining.

Rodell Wigginton missed three free throws for Buffalo with under a minute left to leave the door open for the Chippewas, but they could not take advantage. Braylon Rayson missed a jumper with 20 seconds left that led to a Lamonte Bearden transition dunk to seal it.

After a high-paced first half, Buffalo grabbed a 42-39 lead at the break. Central Michigan outshot the Bulls during the period, with the Chippewas making 52 percent from the floor, but Buffalo held a 19-12 edge on the glass.

The Bulls gained a halftime advantage thanks in large part to a 10-0 run in the latter stages of the frame. Fowler led all scorers with 13 points over the first 20 minutes, while Ford knocked in 11 points for Buffalo.

Game Notes

Buffalo has won eight straight games ... Central Michigan won both meetings in the regular season ... The Chippewas last won this tournament in 2003 ... The Bulls made 30-of-61 attempts from the floor -- including 10-of-22 from beyond the arc ... Skeete and Bearden each had 12 points in the win.