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AMHERST, N.Y. (AP) — Nick Perkins recalled arriving at Buffalo as what he referred to as “a little fat kid.”
Four years later in his final home game, the senior showed off how far he’s come in developing into one of the Mid-American Conference’s top power forwards.
With the No. 19 Bulls clinging to a one-point lead over Bowling Green midway through the second half, Perkins used his 6-foot-8, 250-pound chiseled frame to dominate in the paint by scoring seven points during a 14-5 run to key an 84-73 victory Friday night.
Perkins finished with 22 points and six rebounds and Buffalo (28-3, 16-2) set single-season school records for overall and conference victories, while winning its 26th consecutive home game.
“Obviously, we struggled shooting the ball a little tonight. And obviously, I’m the inside presence,” said the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Perkins. “I think that can kind of get the whole team going. Getting something easier toward the rim kind of helps the momentum and gets us in the swing of things.”
It was the type of performance on a day Buffalo honored all five seniors in which coach Nate Oats credited Perkins for being a part of a team in position to earn its third NCAA tournament berth in four years.
“He’s going to be pretty much impossible to replace,” said Oats, whose team will be the top seed in in the MAC Tournament. “But it’s going to be hard to replace all these seniors to be honest with you.”
CJ Massinburg scored 15 points, and Jeremy Harris had 10 of his 14 points in the second half to help the Bulls win their ninth straight since a loss at Bowling Green on Feb. 1.
Buffalo matched No. 5 Tennessee for the nation’s longest active home streak in a run dating to a 72-63 loss to St. Bonaventure on Dec. 2, 2017.
Justin Turner scored 17 points for Bowling Green (20-11, 12-6), which lost its eighth straight game at Buffalo in a drought dating to Jan. 8, 2011. Assured of finishing second in the East Division, the Falcons have lost four of five.
Buffalo, which led by 19 in the first half, allowed the Falcons to go on a 13-2 run and close the deficit to 55-54 on Antwon Lillard’s layup with 12:06 remaining.
That’s when Perkins took over. After hitting layup in the paint, he drove to the right post and scored another layup and then completed a three-point play after being fouled.
Harris then took over by scoring two baskets from in close.
“He was able to carry those guys when they needed a lift,” Falcons coach Michael Huger said, referring to Perkins. “It’s no ifs ands or buts. There’s no other words I can say to describe that. It was grown-man stuff in what he was doing down there.”
Oats said Buffalo’s cold-shooting spell from the outside led him to lean on Perkins.
“If we can’t make a shot, Nick’s obviously a great option,” Oats said. “Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t go to him more.”
The Bulls became the first MAC team to win 28 games since Ohio went 29-8 in 2011-12. And their 16 conference wins are the most since Kent State went 17-1 in 2001-02.
The Bulls held a postgame ceremony honoring their five seniors. Massinburg and Perkins have been with the school for all four seasons. Guard Dontay Caruthers has spent the past three years at Buffalo, while wingmen Harris and Montell McRae joined the Bulls two years ago as junior college transfers.
Oats started all five seniors, and they then left the game to a standing ovation with 25 seconds remaining.
The Bulls honored former standout Rasaun Young by hanging his jersey on a wall of Alumni Arena. Young was Buffalo’s career leading scorer with 1,908 from 1993-98. He was passed by Javon McCrea (2,004 points) in 2014, and ended the day third on the scoring list. Massinburg moved two ahead of Young.
Bowling Green: A young team is showing signs of struggling down the stretch in dropping to 5-5 since beating Buffalo at home. Most concerning is Frye’s struggles. He finished 3 of 9 for eight points and is 12 of 39 — and 7 of 28 on 3-point attempts — for 35 points in the past four games.
Buffalo: Enters MAC tournament seeking a chance to improve its resume’ for the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Even with a loss, Bulls are projected to have locked up an at-large berth, which would be the first for a MAC since Miami (Ohio) in 1999.
MAC quarterfinals in Cleveland on March 14
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