It was the seventh victory in eight games for No. 6 seed KSU, who knocked out the third-seeded Bulls after splitting the regular season series. Hall scored 24 points with 16 rebounds in the first meeting and 26 points with 10 rebounds in Kent State’s Feb. 21 victory over UB.
The First Team All-MAC selection . . .
“A great win for our guys tonight.” KSU head coach Rob Senderoff said. “It was a really hard fought game. Our guys just found a way to make enough plays on both ends of the floor.”
Joining Hall in double figures were fellow senior Deon Edwin (14 points, 11 rebounds) and sophomore Jaylin Walker (12).
Buffalo (17-15), which saw its six game MAC tourney run and recent three-game winning skein come to an end, got 17 points from senior Blake Hamilton. Sophomore C.J. Massingburg collected 15 points and 12 boards, while Nick Perkins netted 11 points.
“It was a tough loss. I thought our kids played hard.” Bulls head man Nate Oats said. “They expected to win this thing again. They (KSU) shot seven more free throws than us; it was the difference in the game.”
The teams were locked in a close battle through much of the first half. Kent State finally managed to build a 35-27 advantage late in the period following a 3-ball from the right arc by Desmond Ridenour.
It was a 39-32 Flashes lead at the break and KSU expanded the margin to double digits, 49-39, following an Adonis De La Rosa free throw at 13:53.
Buffalo chipped away, but the Flashes responded to each challenge.
Kent State was still up seven points (65-58) when it provided the defending champs with a big opportunity. Jaylin Walker was called for a foul (his fifth) and was then hit with a technical. Buffalo made all four free throws, and suddenly it was a one possession game at 65-62.
The foul lines were busy places as a record 56 fouls were called, and free throws figured heavily into the scoring. Kent State eventually made 29 of 41 attempts, while Buffalo converted 24 of 34.
The Bulls cut their deficit to a single point, 66-65, on two Ikenna Smart free throws with 42 seconds left, but Hall made two free throws with 12 ticks left to stretch the lead to three.
UB’s final chance came oh-so-close on a desperation heave at the buzzer.