AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo has so many scoring threats, senior guard CJ Massinburg wondered aloud which players their opponents concentrate on stopping.
“You,” coach Nate Oats said, interrupting his leading scorer.
Not on Friday night, when Massinburg shook off a four-game slump to lead the 16th-ranked Bulls to a 77-65 win over Eastern Michigan.
“I would say for me, it was just relaxing, taking a little bit of pressure off myself,” said Massinburg, who had combined for 52 points in his past four games.
“I would say it was pressure I put on myself internally, like, ‘I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to play great,'” he added. “Good thing I have great teammates and other guys capable of carrying the team.”
Buffalo entered the game having six players who have led the team in scoring, including Jeremy Harris six times — one more than Massinburg now has.
Nick Perkins scored 21 and while Harris scored just five after combining for 73 in his past three games. And the Bulls (17-1, 5-0 Mid-American Conference) again showed their depth as they extended what’s become their best start in school history.
Buffalo also won its 20th straight home game, which ranks as the third-longest streak in the country.
Paul Jackson led Eastern Michigan with 12 points, but finished hitting just 5 of 17 attempts. James Thompson scored 11 points and added 12 rebounds for the Eagles (8-10, 2-3), who lost their fifth straight game to Buffalo, including an 81-69 loss at Ypsilanti two weeks ago.
Eagles coach Rob Murphy said his team was eventually overwhelmed by the Bulls’ depth and relentless tempo.
“The only team that can beat Buffalo will be the team that can outlast them for 40 minutes,” Murphy said. “Tonight, we played a good 28 minutes. But those 12 minutes we didn’t play, we didn’t execute, and they capitalized off of it. And that’s what good basketball teams do.”
Down 54-41 six minutes into the second half, the Eagles cut Buffalo’s lead to 60-57 when Jackson hit one of two free-throw attempts with 7:41 remaining. Buffalo responded by going on a 15-0 run over the next three minutes. Dontay Caruthers capped the run by completing a three-point play off a transition basket, set up by a pass from Massinburg.
Massinburg finished 10 of 16 and scored 17 points in the first half.
Oats was impressed by Massinburg’s performance, joking that the guard doesn’t usually play well when his mother travels from Texas to attend a game.
“He used to get all nervous. But she’s here now, and he shot it pretty well tonight,” Oats said.
“CJ hadn’t played well for two games in a row, so we talked about taking the pressure off and just go out and play,” Oats added. “I think he got it back.”
Oats expressed concern over how sloppy the Bulls were in committing 16 turnovers. He said turnovers were the key reason Buffalo squandered double-digit leads in both halves.
“It was very frustrating,” he said. “We’re ready to break the lead open and all of a sudden they’re back in the game a little bit … just because of some dumb turnovers on us.”
Caruthers committed five turnovers, including three on consecutive possessions.
Only six of 16 Eagles players were alive the last time Eastern Michigan defeated a ranked opponent. It happened on Dec. 17, 1997, when the Eagles traveled to beat No. 21 Michigan 89-83.
Eastern Michigan also lost its eighth straight at Buffalo, a drought dating to Feb. 4, 2004.
Eastern Michigan: The Eagles refused to crumble when falling behind by 13 midway through the second half. They hit 10 of 31 3-point attempts after hitting 3 of 15 in a 51-49 loss at Akron on Tuesday.
Buffalo: It hasn’t yet cost them, but stretches of inconsistency at both ends of the floor continue to be an issue for the Bulls ever since a 110-80 blowout of Toledo on Jan. 8.
Eastern Michigan: Hosts Bowling Green on Tuesday.
Buffalo: Plays its next two on the road, starting at Northern Illinois on Tuesday.
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