No. 20 Buffalo rolls in MAC opener, 74-58 over EMU
YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) — Nick Perkins has a good idea of how the rest of the Mid-American Conference feels about facing Buffalo this season.
“When you’ve got a national ranking, everybody wants to beat you,” the 6-foot-8 senior said.
The 20th-ranked Bulls were ready for their first MAC test of 2018-19. Montell McRae scored a career-high 18 points and Perkins added 15 to lift Buffalo to an easy 74-58 win over Eastern Michigan on Friday night.
CJ Massinburg added 12 points for Buffalo. McRae scored 12 of his points in the first half, helping the Bulls (13-1, 1-0) through a sluggish start against the EMU zone defense.
Buffalo trailed 15-11 before going on a 19-4 run. It was 33-23 at halftime.
McRae’s first-half scoring came on three dunks and a pair of 3-pointers. The 6-foot-10 senior finished 8 of 9 from the field and surpassed his previous career high of 13 points.
“Somebody needed to find a spark, and I guess it was me tonight,” McRae said. “I got us rolling.”
Elijah Minnie led EMU (6-8, 0-1) with 21 points.
“We were more excited playing Buffalo than when we played Duke, in my opinion,” said EMU’s James Thompson IV, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds. “We’ve got the crowd, everybody was hype. We didn’t look at Buffalo like they were No. 20. We looked at them like we play them every year.”
Massinburg had a quiet game offensively, but he did sink a couple late 3-pointers in the first half, including one in the final seconds that gave the Bulls a 10-point lead.
Buffalo: EMU was the type of team that can give the Bulls trouble, especially on the offensive glass. The Eagles had 20 offensive rebounds, but they didn’t lead to that many easy baskets. EMU finished with only an 18-16 edge in second-chance points.
“What it did is it didn’t allow us to get into our transition like we wanted to,” Buffalo coach Nate Oats said. “We didn’t have nearly as many fast-break points as we typically would, just because we couldn’t rebound the ball. Even if they weren’t scoring on it all the time, we’ve got to get rebounds and get out in transition.”
EMU: The Eagles defended well at times, but they couldn’t overcome their 7-for-26 shooting from 3-point range. EMU came into the game shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc — one of the worst marks in Division I — and during one stretch, the Eagles missed 12 attempts in a row from long distance.
“You have to make sure when you get an opportunity, Division I players have to make open shots,” EMU coach Rob Murphy said. “We didn’t make open shots. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Perkins is an Ypsilanti native, and Oats spent 11 years as head coach at Romulus High School, about 16 miles away.
The pace of the game was to EMU’s benefit early. It took over three minutes for anybody to score, and neither team had a single fast-break point in the first half.
The game got away from the Eagles early in the second, when Buffalo went on a 24-9 run to take a 57-32 lead.
Buffalo can expect to be ranked for a ninth straight week when the next AP poll comes out.
Buffalo: The Bulls return home to face Toledo on Tuesday night.
EMU: The Eagles play at Ball State on Tuesday night.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister