KENT, OHIO – The Buffalo Bulls picked up their fourth straight victory and third away from home Saturday night as they defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes 71-65 before an enthusiastic crowd of 5,587 at the MAC Center.
Buffalo (19-9, 10-6 MAC) was led by sophomore guard Shannon Evans with 21 points, six assists and two steals. Freshman point guard Lamonte Bearden added 14 with five rebounds and junior Jarryd Skeete also had 14.
“We shot the basketball very well tonight.” UB head coach Bobby Hurley said. “We survived Justin Moss being in foul trouble, but these guys have a lot of heart. They have been through a lot this year in a lot of tough games and they responded in the way I was hoping they would.”
Kent State (19-10, 10-6 MAC) saw its six-game home winning streak come to an end and lost consecutive games for the first time since late December at Texas-El Paso and nationally ranked Kansas.”
“It’s a disappointing loss.” KSU head man Rob Senderoff said. “Tip your hat to Buffalo. They played well tonight on the road. We have to compete a little harder as well.”
Senior Devereaux Manley led the Flashes with 19 points, along two assists. Sophomore Jimmy Hall added 18 points and 10 rebounds, while senior Derek Jackson added 10 with five steals.
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On Saturday, however, UB would use long range three-pointers to start the game. Its first four baskets all came from beyond the arc courtesy of Skeete. The native of Canada connected twice from the left corner and a pair from the left arc.
“We got off to a great start. Getting a lot of points on the board against a really good defensive team.” Hurley said
The visitors soon opened a pair of nine-point leads, the last being 21-12 at the 14:14 mark on a Bearden free throw. KSU weathered the storm and slowly closed the deficit, getting to within five 21-16 at the 11:16 mark on a layup by Jackson.
The Bulls pushed the lead out to 10, their largest of the first half, 28-18, at the 8:38 mark on a three from the right arc by Evans.
KSU again came back using a 13-2 run to take its first and only lead of the game, 31-30, at the 3:43 mark on a layup by sophomore Marquez Lawrence..
The lead was short lived. Moss scored his first points of the game on a reverse layup and senior Will Regan scored on a driving layup as the Bulls went into halftime with a 34-31 lead.
UB was over 50 percent from the field for most of the opening 20 minutes before settling at 44.4 percent (12-of-27). KSU was 12-of-33 from the floor (36.4%) and just 1-of-12 from three point range. The Bulls had a narrow 20-19 rebounding edge, while the Flashes converted six UB turnovers into 12 points.
At the start of the second half, KSU turned the ball over on its first two possessions. The Bulls made them pay with a pair of slam dunks to push the lead back out to seven, 38-31, just 56 seconds into the second period.
UB’s lead fluctuated between four and eight points. When the Flashes closed to within four, 43-3, on a driving layup by Manley at the 14:20 mark, it was the closest they would get until the final moments.
“We handled the pressure well tonight.” Hurley said. “We didn’t turn the ball over, we had some clutch shot making.”
The Bulls opened their largest lead of the night at 15 points, 64-49, on a three by Regan at the 4:36 mark. The Flashes made one final rush at the end, putting together a 15-4 run to close within four 69-65 on a layup by Hall. But there was only 10 seconds remaining, and the Bulls won their fourth consecutive game over KSU, sweeping the regular-season series for the second straight season.
UB was simply scorching in the second half, shooting 56 percent from the field (14-of-25) to finish the game at an even 50 percent (26-of-52). It was the fourth time this season the Bulls reached at least 50 percent in a game.
Evans was the key man, scoring 14 with three assists and two steals. In addition, the Bulls were six-of-eight from the free throw line, including three of four in the final minute. Buffalo won the rebound battle, 37-34.
KSU was only 11-of-28 from the floor in the second half (39.3%) and was only 37.7 percent over 40 minutes (23-of-61).
Coming into the game, the Flashes were one of the best defensive teams in the MAC and one of the best three-point shooting teams in the conference. They allowed 71 points against Buffalo (the most at home this season) and shot just 4-of-22 from beyond the arc. It was their fewest from beyond the arc since a loss to Yale in November.
From the Bulls perspective, their two big front men (Moss and Ford) were held to a combined 13 points and nine rebounds.
“On most nights, if you hold those two to those numbers, you have a great chance to win the game. Unfortunately for us, not on this night.” Senderoff said.
The final week of the regular season for UB has two home games -- Tuesday against Ohio and Saturday against Bowling Green. KSU goes to Bowling Green Tuesday night and finishes on Friday against arch-rival Akron.