That week or so (although it felt like about seven minutes) where Kent State was a half-game behind the leaders was quite haunting, wasn't it? But everything is all right now. Kent State scraped out another win, this time at home to the Bulls, and are now 10-3 in the conference, a single game up on tiring Miami.
It's the same tale you've heard with other teams in other places and spaces; the visiting team busts out of the gates with piss, vinegar, and 3-point shots. (The latter was courtesy of Zach Filzen, and maybe he contributed to the other two a little.) The offensive rebounding was always there. But it wasn't a sustainable pace. The 10-point lead quickly faded and the Golden Flashes protected a teeny tiny lead in the final minute.
And what brought the MAC Center to its knees? Michael Porrini, again. The deliveryman of the game-winning parcel at Western Michigan brought home a dunk that apparently we should all see — it was hard to get the full effect on the radio, I guess — which made it a 70-67 game in the final minute. Curiously Byron Mulkey went for the layup, which he got, with 19 seconds left, and the hack-and-hope-for-a-miss game went for one more cycle before Mulkey's final shot of the game was blocked by Carlton Guyton, another one of the spark plugs. (Does game-high scorer count as a spark plug, or are you upgraded to engine?)
But what kept Buffalo in the game was some great play by Javon McCrea, continuing to make his Freshman of the Year case, with another double-double and multiple steals and assists. Mulkey wasn't half bad, and Mitchell Watt got in there as well. They kept the turnovers to a lean 11, but what got them were uncomfortably long periods without field goals. Their first second-half bucket came 3:05 into the period, at which point KSU was already closing in on the lead. For another four-minute stretch between 15:54 and 11:43 they were blanked, but fortunately nobody was scoring at that time. And then between 10:51 and 5:26 ... just one point. By then the lead, narrow as it may have been, was never relinquished.
So we know about Kent State's continued impressive play. They seem to be fine and let's pencil them in for the No. 1 seed. Now, how about UB? They're back to 7-6, tied with OHIO and BG for last place. The preseason poll is finally starting to materialize! No schedule looks easy for a MAC East team trying to hang on and compete for a first-round bye, and this one's no exception: at Akron, vs. Miami, at Bowling Green. Toppling any of the two teams ahead of them will help the cause, but they might need to take all three games.
And for completion's sake: Kent State has a trip to Bowling Green and home games against OHIO and Akron. They don't need all three, but they seem to have them.