The Scout.com five-star recruit and Ohio State signee scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting during the fourth quarter as his Toledo Libbey squad pulled away for a 72-58 win over Lakewood St. Edward as part of the National City Classic at Value City Arena.
"I think the first half I was trying to force too many shots," Buford said. "Second half I was just trying to let the game come to me, and my teammates knew what they needed to do, and they were able to get buckets, too."
He finished with a game-high 26 points on 11-of-23 shooting and 11 rebounds. He had 15 points on 7-18 shooting through three periods, but made his mark in the fourth. St. Edward's Tom Pritchard, an Indiana commit, scored on the Eagles' first possession of the quarter to cut into what was a 49-42 Libbey lead at the end of three quarters, but Libbey responded behind Buford.
He took a tough pass in traffic and scored from the lane to push the lead back to seven, then slammed home an alley oop pass from Lance Jones moments later after a St. Ed's missed three-pointer to push the lead to nine.
He added another jam on transition from a Jones pass later in the quarter.
"Me and my teammates, we all have that connection," he said when asked about the alley oops. "He was able to get me the ball on those alley oops, and I always look for him when he's on a break. We just look for each other."
The Cowboys took a 33-31 lead into the break thanks to an 18-10 advantage during second quarter and pushed that to 49-42 after three. Buford had four points in the third stanza but watched teammates Brad Sandridge (five points in the quarter) and Julius Wells (four) become more assertive and take advantage of the Eagles' focus on Buford.
The No. 3 shooting guard in the country according to Scout, Buford was named his team's MVP. In addition to his 26 points, he had 11 rebounds, two steals and four turnovers.
He showed a variety of ways to score. Twice in the second half he fought for offensive rebounds after missed foul shots by his teammates and quickly put the ball back up, making one of the tries in traffic. He showcased a turnaround jumper in the second and even fought for a tip-in underneath.
He also had a variety of nice dishes to teammates, including some that broke double-team pressure from St. Edward, that were not converted into buckets.
"I think he's a big time player, so he really tried to step it up and show what he really has," head coach Leroy Bates said.
The game was telecast on ESPNU and played in Value City Arena, Buford's future home as a Buckeye.
"I was kind of nervous coming into the game but I shook off the nerves because I saw my teammates," Buford said. "They were ready, so I had to get ready."
The Eagles played without senior standout Delvon Roe, a Michigan State standout who is out for the year with an ankle injury. Pritchard finished with nine points after fouling out early in the fourth quarter, signaling the end of St Edward's chances.
Libbey, the No. 4-ranked team in Division II, is now 10-1. St. Edward, ranked 10th in Division I, falls to 9-3.