Early Deficit Costly As Season Ends In MAC Quarterfinals
CLEVELAND, OH – The top-seeded Kent State Golden Flashes got out to a 41-25 halftime lead and were able to overcome a furious Buffalo rally in the second half to defeat the Bulls, 73-62, in the quarterfinals of the 2011 FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday night. The loss ends Buffalo's season at 18-13.
Despite the loss, the Bulls continued to see the emergence of its young players as MAC Freshman of the Year Javon McCrea had career highs of 28 points and 13 rebounds. The Bulls also got quality minutes out of Jarod Oldham, who had five points and a career-high five rebounds while playing a season-high 21 minutes.
Trailing by as many as 16 in the second half, UB had cut it to within four on a layup from Oldham with 7:51 left, but on the play Oldham was called for a charge, putting the Golden Flashes back at the line and pushing the lead back to five. The Bulls cut the lead to 59-54 on another Oldham basket with 5:25 left. However, five straight Kent State points put the Golden Flashes back up by 10 with just under two minutes remaining.
The Bulls struggled to score in the first half as McCrea seemed to be the only Buffalo player able to find the bottom of the net, several coming on thunderous dunks. The Newark, NY native contributed 17 of Buffalo's 25 first half points as he hit 7-of-11 shots. The rest of the team combined for just 3-of-16 in the opening 20 minutes.
The Bulls also struggled with nine first half turnovers, which turned into six Kent State points. On the other end, the Golden Flashes turned the ball over just twice in opening half.
"It's a game where we didn't get off to a good start obviously. I thought Kent State came out with a surge of energy that we didn't have to start the game with," head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. "Our guys fought back and they fought all year. This was a group that no one thought would be in a situation to match the win total of last year's team."
The loss caps the careers of seniors Byron Mulkey and Jawaan Alston. Mulkey had eight points in the game, as well as three rebounds, two assists and a steal. The steal was his 80th of the year, a school record and the 11th most in MAC history for a single season.
McCrea finished as the only double-figure scorer for UB with his career-best 28 points, the most points scored in a game by a UB freshman since back in 1994 when Rasaun Young had 26 points against Northeast Illinois. McCrea also brought in a career-best 13 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the year. The 13 rebounds were the most by a UB player since Calvin Betts had 14 at Akron last season.
The Bulls return 12 players next year. This is the second straight season where the Bulls will finish with 18 wins and the sixth time in the past eight seasons Buffalo posted 17 or more wins.