Stephanie Storm

KENT: One Kent State senior’s miscue allowed Wednesday’s game to go into overtime, but it was another’s big play that kept it from going into a second overtime.

Golden Flashes guards Randal Holt and Chris Evans alternately led Kent State to a thrilling 83-81 Mid-American Conference victory over Buffalo to keep the visiting Bulls winless in 16 attempts at the M.A.C. Center.

When Holt fumbled the ball away at the end of regulation with the score tied 73-73 as he was trying to run the clock, KSU’s home streak over the Bulls appeared to be in serious jeopardy.

But Buffalo’s final shot with four seconds to go was off the mark, giving each team another five minutes with which to work.

Just when a stalemate appeared eminent once again to force a second overtime, Evans grabbed a rebound on the right side of the rim and banked in the game-winner from about five feet out with three Bulls in his face.

“They hit an incredibly difficult shot at the end of overtime, a great play by Evans,” Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “We had a similar shot at the end of regulation that we missed.”

The improbable shot went through the net just as the final buzzer sounded, sending Evans and his stunned teammates into a frenzied mob that quickly traveled from one end of the court to the other in giddy celebration.

“We were trying to catch him, but Chris wouldn’t let us,” Holt said of the celebration scene. “He just kept running.”

Late turnover aside, Holt carried the Flashes (16-12, 6-7 MAC) throughout the game. Evans struggled with his shot in the first half and finished with just 14 points. Aggressive from the start, Holt made six 3-pointers as part of a career-high 28 points and led four Flashes in double-figure scoring.

What really made the win special was that it wasn’t just the two senior leaders picking up each other. Junior forward Darren Goodson made one clutch shot after another, including three 3-pointers, as part of his 18-point contribution; and little-used center Melvin Tabb came off the bench for an undeniable second-half spark of 12 points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes on the court.

“Our kids deserved for one of these close games to go our way,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “It was a great job by a lot of guys. I could point out just about everybody for coming up with a clutch play or grabbing a big rebound or making a big shot. I’m very proud of our guys for finding a way to win.”

Buffalo junior forward and MAC Player of the Year candidate Javon McCrea led all players with 32 points and finished with a near triple-double with 15 rebounds and eight blocks.

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound McCrea dominated from the start and appeared as if he might single-handedly overpower the Flashes by dominating the post. But KSU wisely switched from man-to-man defense to a more effective 2-3 zone in the second half that helped to limit McCrea.

“We went to it out of necessity because we couldn’t stop them in [man-to-man],” Senderoff said. “We needed to do something different to make it harder for McCrea to get the ball and also to contest [sophomore forward] Will Regan [14 points] because man he was getting open shots.”

The switch to zone also resulted in KSU winning the rebound battle 46-38, despite trailing at the half by six rebounds and a score of 41-32.

“Give them credit, they worked their tail off and they won,” Witherspoon said.

“I just think their determination was the difference. They outrebounded us and we haven’t been outrebounded a lot this year. They just went to the glass and they would not be denied.”

Stephanie Storm can be reached at sstorm@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes.