Things got away from the Kent State men's basketball team quickly during Friday night's nationally televised clash at No. 25 Buffalo.
The Golden Flashes (19-8, 8-6 Mid-American Conference) led by two points before the Bulls (24-3, 12-2) went on a 10-0 run to end the first half, and the two-time defending MAC Tournament champs never let up while rolling to an 80-57 victory at Alumni Arena in Buffalo to sweep the regular-season series and 24th straight win at home.
“We screwed some stuff up late [in the first half],” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “To me, what makes them very good is when you make mistakes, they capitalize, and when they smell blood, they're like sharks in the water.”
The Bulls turned 24 Kent State turnovers into a 30-10 edge in points off miscues. The Flashes were also whistled for 23 fouls, had two point guards foul out, and shot 2-of-13 from 3-point range.
Junior guard Antonio Williams led the Flashes with 17 points and five rebounds, but fouled out in 25 minutes. Freshman guard Anthony Roberts added 13 points off the bench, but also fouled out.
Senior guard Jaylin Walker scored 12 points, but missed all four of his 3-point attempts and committed five turnovers without an assist. He's now shot 9-of-41 from the field (22 percent) and 2-of-15 from 3 in his past three games.
“He's making it hard to some degree, but we've got to do a better job of making it easier for him, too — find a way to get him an easy basket, because every shot he's taking is tough right now,” Senderoff said of Walker. “He's been a really good player for a long time, and he'll battle his way out of it. I have no doubt about that whatsoever.”
Senior point guard Jalen Avery returned to action for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle on Feb. 8 at Akron, but did not score in 27 minutes.
“He only practiced once before tonight. This is a tough game to throw him into his first game in two weeks,” Senderoff said. “He's playing on one and a half feet now. I didn't want to play him as much as I did, but I didn't have a choice after I had two point guards foul out.”
Senior forward Nick Perkins poured in 27 points off the bench for Buffalo, and senior guard CJ Massinburg added 18 points and five steals
Kent State led 10-8 early, fell behind by seven, then went back on top 25-23 on a jumper by Walker. A layup by sophomore forward BJ Duling gave the Flashes a 27-25 lead before Perkins made a 3-pointer that ignited a 10-0 Buffalo run in the final 1:15 of the first half. Kent State committed two turnovers in the final minute, and Perkins made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Bulls ahead 35-27.
A 3-pointer by Jayvon Graves put Buffalo ahead 40-29 two minutes into the second half, and the lead stayed in double digits the rest of the way.
Junior forward Philip Whittington added eight points and 13 rebounds for the Flashes, who will host Ohio (12-14, 4-10) on Tuesday. The Bobcats upset Bowling Green on Friday.