Buffalo Takes Down Top-Seeded Toledo in Semifinals

Written by on March 15, 2024

After falling behind in their quarterfinal victory against Western Michigan, Toledo again fell behind early on. The Rockets found themselves in a 9-0 hole early on, but went on an 11-2 run to tie the game.

However, the Toledo offense again went cold, giving up eight straight points, and eventually found themselves down 19-13 at the end of the first quarter.

The Bulls were able to push the lead to 11 early in the second quarter, but they too went cold, going over four minutes without a point.

Fortunately for Buffalo, their defense continued to give Toledo issues and only gave up two points in that span.

With the underdog Bulls up 24-15 with under four and a half minutes remaining in the first half, Toledo went on a quick 8-4 run to bring the lead down to five with three minutes left.

The Rockets could not continue the offensive burst, and only scored two more points in the half and found themselves down 33-25 entering the third quarter.

Buffalo surrendered a basket on the opening possession of the second half, but they responded by outscoring the Rockets by ten over the next 3:47.

Facing their biggest deficit of the day, Toledo scored seven straight points to cut the lead to single digits. However, in the closing moments of the third, they gave up another run, putting themselves down 53-38 to begin the fourth quarter.

With their season on life support, Toledo went on a 14-2 run in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter thanks to the full-court press, which resulted in five turnovers and five fouls by Buffalo. 

With the lead cut to three, Toledo stopped the full-court press and allowed Buffalo to run their regular offense. The Rockets did tie the game at 55-55, and it went back and forth afterwards.

Though Toledo was not in dire need of possessions anymore, not going to the full-court press for the next few minutes allowed Buffalo to run their regular offense.

With both teams having a score of 62 with 3:43 remaining, the Rockets again went to the full-court press, resulting in Buffalo’s offense becoming flustered again.

After the Bulls were able to manage a basket, Toledo hit a three-pointer with 1:41 to give themselves their first lead of the game at 65-64. Another steal and basket gave them a three-point lead, but a three-pointer by Buffalo tied the game at 67.

After a steal, Buffalo had the chance to take the last shot of regulation, but forced a bad layup attempt and missed, giving Toledo the chance to win it in regulation.

The Bulls’ defense came through, forcing a jump ball with 7.5 seconds, and fortunately for them, the possession arrow was facing their way.

They did not convert on the opportunity and the Rockets had 2.8 seconds to win it, but were unable to do so, resulting in the first overtime game of either the men’s or women’s tournament.

The first three minutes of overtime favored Buffalo by two points as they did a much better job of breaking the press.

Toledo tied the game at 72-72 when they cashed in two free throws with just over a minute and a half left.

The Bulls again took the lead with a minute left and came up with a huge defensive possession. The Rockets fouled, resulting in two made free throws and a 76-72 lead for Buffalo.

After a missed shot, Toledo got it back on a dead ball rebound. They drew up an inbound play to get a wide-open three, but it didn’t go down. They got yet another chance after a jump ball that resulted in their possession. 

This time, Toledo did score, but just a layup, leaving them down two. Toledo fouled and got what they needed when Buffalo missed a free throw. 

The Rockets had one last chance with 7.8 seconds left, but could not make the three-pointer, losing by a score of 77-74, capping off a rough 24 hours for the Toledo basketball program.

Buffalo will advance to their fifth MAC Tournament Championship Game appearance since joining the conference in 1998. They await the winner of the second semifinal matchup between Ball State and Kent State.


Photo Courtesy: Yasmeen Matthews

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