KENT, OH - Despite four Bulls scoring in double figures and a double-double from freshman Javon McCrea, the Kent State Golden Flashes maintained home dominance in the series with a 72-69 comeback win at the M.A.C Center Thursday evening.
The Bulls got off to a slow start in the game, falling behind 6-0 before rallying with a 10-0 run of its own, giving the team a lead it would not relinquish until midway through the second half. Zach Filzen was the major part of the strong shooting effort in the first half, scoring 14 of his team-leading 17 total points in the first half alone, going 4-6 from three-point range and keying a half that saw Buffalo lead by as much as 13. Kent State hit a three-pointer as the first half came to a close to bring them within ten, 43-33, and the momentum from that basket carried over into the second half.
The Flashes methodically chipped away at the Buffalo lead as the second half progressed, finally taking 57-56 lead with around seven minutes left in the game. The lead was then stretched to eight before Buffalo made a comeback of its own, led by McCrea. After struggling to four points on 2-7 shooting in the first half, the Newark, NY native scored 11 points on 5-7 shooting and corralled five rebounds to give him 15 points and 11 rebounds for the game.
The bread and butter that gave Buffalo its lead in the first half – three-point shooting – went away altogether in the second half as Filzen went 1-6 and the team as a whole went 1-of-10 from three-point range in the final half. From the field, Buffalo shot 11-of-31 in the second half and 3-of-8 from the free throw line. It was the free throw shooting that was a major factor in the second half, with Kent State hitting 10-of-12 in the half and 12-of-15 for the game. Buffalo shot 6-for-14 from the charity stripe for the game.
Other than Filzen and McCrea's double-digit efforts, Mitchell Watt scored 11 points and Byron Mulkey had a solid line of 13 points, six rebounds and five assists. The Flashes only had two players in double figures but had a balanced scoring attack for the whole game with six players scoring five points or more and the Kent State bench outpacing Buffalo's 29-19. Kent State also excelled in the transition offense, scoring 12 points on fast breaks in the second half alone and 14 total for the contest.
Filzen's five three-pointers gives him 94 on the season, tying the school record held by Mike Martinho (1996).
The loss drops Buffalo to 16-10 and 7-6 in the Mid-American Conference. The team will stay out on the road and travel right down the road for another critical East division matchup with Akron on Saturday. The Zips took the Bulls to the wire in the first meeting in January, with Buffalo winning 73-70. Akron has been riding a hot streak as of late, reeling off six straight wins. The Saturday game will tip at 7 pm.