On Tuesday night, the Buffalo Bulls traveled to play the Kent State Golden Flashes at the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio. The Flashes and the Bulls have come out of the gate slow in conference play, both sitting at 1-3 in MAC play. The Bulls entered play on Tuesday having lost their last two conference match-ups at home against Ohio and Ball State. The Flashes lost their last outing in a shoot-out at Western Michigan 92-88. Buffalo and Kent State, both needed this game as neither program expected to be 1-3 in the MAC and certainly weren’t ready to fall to 1-4. Buffalo came into Tuesday’s meeting with the Flashes having beat them in their last six.
Things were not looking good for the home Kent State crowd, that was much bigger now that students have returned to campus, when Buffalo ran out to a 14-4 lead. The game quickly took a dramatic turn though as the Bulls Senior starter, Willie Conner would get ejected from the game after coming together with Kent’s Jimmy Hall and blatantly two-hand shoving him after a technical had already been accessed to both players.
The incident would set the tone for the rest of the game as it became a very physical match-up, resulting in lots of fouls. Kent used the confrontation to their benefit though, grabbing momentum with a 14-0 run led by two Jaylin Walker triples giving Kent State an 18-14 lead. The Flashes and Bulls would both deal with foul trouble throughout the game. Kent State’s Deon Edwin and Hall would both get two early fouls and then a third before the half. Edwin would go scoreless in the first half. Meanwhile, the Bulls, with one starter already ejected, had Ikenna Smart and Blake Hamilton, two more starters in foul trouble. Sophomore guard CJ Massinburg would have a huge first half off of the bench for Buffalo, picking up the slack and leading them to a halftime lead at 40-37. Kent State would struggle mightily from the free throw line after being in the bonus most of the half.
Deon Edwin would come out on fire in the second half for the Flashes, scoring 8 quick points and taking the lead back for Kent at 49-42, after drilling a three. However, turnovers would plague Kent all night long. Dontay Caruthers and the Bulls defense would continuously turn the flashes over and get easy transition baskets at the other end. Kent would get a big half from Hall as he would get the ball deep in the paint on consecutive trips, and score for the Flashes. Edwin would convert and get fouled at the under 12 media timeout to give Kent the lead at 54-53. Buffalo was truly up against it as they had one starter gone and two with 4 fouls and still 12 minutes to play.
Kent would continue to go to Hall and having held Massinburg scoreless in the second half to this point, Buffalo would go to their post play, with the 6-8 sophomore Nick Perkins. Massinburg would get his first deuce of the second half with a mid range jumper just before the under 8 media timeout, making the score 64-61 Kent leading. It would be all downhill from there for the Flashes. The Buffalo defense would step up in the right moment, putting the clamps on Kent’s offense. They would turn their defense into offense, getting multiple transition baskets off of Kent turnovers. Massinburg would get heated up again and Perkins took over down low. Nikola Rakicevic would play a key role down the stretch as well, scoring 14 points during the flurry. The Flashes would score just one field goal in the last 8:44 of the game, losing by a final score of 82-69. The Bulls finished the game on a 23-5 run.
Buffalo showed tremendous resilience to get this road victory in conference play. Massinburg led the way with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 4 dimes in 37 minutes of play off the bench. Nick Perkins was nothing short of spectacular in the second half, finishing with 17 points and 6 rebounds. Despite being awful from the line, 10-21, the Bulls shot 49% from the field and had 8 steals and 4 blocks on the defensive end.
They improve to 8-10 overall and 2-3 in MAC play. Buffalo returns home to face Western Michigan on Saturday at 2:30 PM EST.
The Golden Flashes were led by Hall, who scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds despite being in foul trouble. Edwin pitched in with 11 second half points. Kent State came into the game ranked 227th in the nation in turnover percentage and coughed it up 19 times tonight. They shot 40% from the field and missed 12 free throws making just 12 of 24.
The Flashes have now surrendered 40 points in 5 consecutive halves of play, so their struggles are apparent at both ends of the floor.
They fall to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in the MAC. They will host Toledo on Saturday night at 7 PM EST.