CLEVELAND — Larry Austin Jr. scored 23 points and Central Michigan pulled away midway through the second half and hung on for an 89-81 win over Kent State on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament, setting up a matchup against No. 18 Buffalo.
The fifth-seeded Chippewas (23-10) will face the defending champion Bulls (29-3) in Friday’s first semifinal. Central Michigan lost by 14 in its only meeting with Buffalo during the regular season.
Shawn Roundtree Jr. scored 20 for Central Michigan, which used a 20-2 run to open a 71-54 lead with 7:17 remaining.
Kent State crawled back within 79-72 on a 3-pointer by Antonio Williams with 2:32 left. However, the Chippewas took care of the ball and made their free throws down the stretch.
Philip Whittington scored 23 with 14 rebounds and Jaylin Walker 19 with 11 boards to lead the Golden Flashes (22-10). Walker, who made just 4 of 13 3-pointers, returned after being suspended for Kent State’s final regular-season game.
Dallas Morgan made two of his four 3-pointers during Central Michigan’s big second-half spurt.