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Jaaron Simmons looks for an open teammate during the Ohio's game against Northern Illinois University on Feb. 6 at The Convo. The Bobcats won the game 80-69. (FILE)

Men's Basketball: Ohio looks for third win over Buffalo with MAC title hopes on the line

Ohio and Buffalo will meet for the third time this season in the MAC semifinal round at 9 p.m. Friday.

CLEVELAND -- Once Ohio took care of Northern Illinois on Thursday night, all that was left to do was watch two teams it already had swept in the regular season battle it out for another chance at the Bobcats.

Buffalo earned that chance with a 94-81 over Miami.

The Bobcats and Bulls will meet Friday at 9 p.m. in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals. Ohio defeated Buffalo by scores of 94-75 at Buffalo and 103-96 in overtime at home earlier this season.

Its point totals against Buffalo were its two highest of the season.

The Bobcats posted two quality shooting performances against the Bulls this season, hitting 54 percent of their shots in the first matchup, including 56 percent from behind the arc.

They converted 47 percent of their shots in the second game, including 42 percent from 3-point territory.

If Ohio wants to put up similar numbers in Friday’s semifinal matchup, however, it will require it to keep the pace it set with its dominating 79-62 win over the Huskies on Thursday. The Bobcats shot 51 percent from the field and made 48 percent of their 29 3-point attempts.

The 29 3-pointers were the most they’ve shot from behind the arc this season.

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“We were just ready to play,” Ohio guard Jaaron Simmons said. “We just wanted to focus on our game, focus on getting a win, focus on ourselves. … We knew what happened in the earlier games, but that didn't really motivate us either way.”

Getting it going offensively against the Bulls — who rank last in the conference in scoring defense and surrendered a 41 percent 3-point shooting day to Miami — isn’t exactly where the pressure will be. 

The question for the Bobcats will be whether it can slow down the Bulls’ offense, which ranks second behind the Bobcats in the conference in scoring.

As consistent as the Bobcats’ offensive days were in their two games against Buffalo this season, their defense had quite different results.

Ohio held Buffalo to 43 percent shooting on the road but allowed freshman C.J. Massinburg to unload 36 points, the most of any of the Bobcats’ opponents this season. In the second game, Buffalo shot 45 percent from the field. 

After taking the Bobcats to overtime in The Convo on senior day, the Bulls are eager for one more shot with MAC title hopes on the line.

“Ohio's not a team you're going to hold down in the 50s, you're going to have to put some points up,” Buffalo coach Nate Oats said. “I thought our ball screen defense, that was a huge problem the last time we played Miami, and Ohio runs a million ball screens a game. Simmons comes off them and makes all the right plays, they've got shooters spaced all over the floor.”

The Bulls will have their hands full when scouting the Bobcats, though, as each member of Ohio’s usual starting five has posted a 20-plus point performance against them this season. The last time the two met, Simmons scored 31 points, while Kenny Kaminski scored 22 on five 3-pointers. Treg Setty had 24 points.


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