DAYTON, Ohio — Six wins. Seven figures.
Blue Collar U became a million-dollar brand Tuesday night when Buffalo’s alumni team won The Basketball Tournament in grand fashion.
Confetti fell on the Bulls celebrating their 89-67 victory against American for Autism in the title game at University at Dayton Arena, the dominant win a capstone on a two-week, true blue streak through the 64-team, win-or-go-home, winner-take-all playoff for $1 million.
Blue Collar U’s collective spirit, cohesion and championship experience led to the title, tournament MVP C.J. Massinburg said.
“That was a talented team and we were a talented team. But what gave us the edge is how hard we play. And we did that for the city of Buffalo,” Massinburg said. “It’s one thing just playing with a team of talented guys that somebody just put together. But playing with our brothers, we can hold each other accountable. And that gave us a competitive edge.”
The core players from UB’s four Mid-American Conference titles from 2015-19 collected another championship trophy, with the blue collar basketball constructor, coach Nate Oats, flying in from Alabama to watch the money game from his floor seat.
“It was super fun watching them compete as hard as they did. They ran them out of the gym for the championship. It’s fun watching how hard they play, how much fun they have, still playing together. They’ve got a brotherhood. I love watching them play.”
Nick Perkins, a repeat all-TBT selection, led five double-figure scorers with 19 points. Massinburg had 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, edging the Bulls’ third all-TBT selection Wes Clark (17 points) for the team scoring lead in the event at 15.5 ppg.
“It’s another one of them high-level games,” Clark said. “It’s a benefit to actually get the money in the end. We’ve been part of these high-level matches for years and years. It’s really fun to continue to do it. But it’s not a surprise. We like being in situations like this.”
Blake Hamilton added 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five steals. Lamonte Bearden scored 10 off the bench, all in the first half. Montell McRae’s two-hand jam won the game in TBT’s signature Elam Ending sequence.
“It just shows you how talented the guys from UB were and all the success that we had,” Massinburg said. “We’ve got some high-level pros on this team. And guys who are going to play for a very long time. We might not be in the NBA, but we showed that we are really, really good basketball players.
BCU never trailed after scoring the first hoop and built a double-digit lead in the first quarter, when Clark scored 11 of his points, making three consecutive 3-pointers. He had 14 at halftime.
“Wes went absolutely bonkers in the first half,” Massinburg said. “As soon as that happened, the game was out of reach.”
Clark credited his teammates for boosting his belief that he can be the best player on the floor.
“These guys give me so much confidence in telling me that I’m the best player and make me feel above the world,” Clark said.
The Bulls shot 54%from the field, making 13 of 27 (48%) from beyond the arc. They had 23 assists on 33 field goals, a 38-25 rebounding edge, 36-24 advantage in paint scoring. They scored 20 points from forcing 15 turnovers.
After making the semifinals in their TBT debut last summer, the Bulls’ 10-1 record in the event gives them the second-best all-time winning percentage (.909) behind four-time champion Overseas Elite. BCU joins alumni teams from Syracuse, Marquette and Ohio State that won the past three TBT titles.
Memorializing the lives lost to the racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo in May, the Bulls wore jerseys with the victim’s names and the slogan “BUFFALO STRONG” on their backs throughout the tournament run. They plan to give the jerseys to the victim’s families. A portion of the $1 million prize will also be donated to general manager Bryan Hodgson’s foundation, Coaching Love, the runs clinics and provides equipment for foster children.