Bulls Can't Keep Magic Going, Fall to Kent State
Buffalo falls to 0-15 all-time at MAC Center
Zach Filzen and the Bulls fell to Kent State and saw their winning streak come to an end. Spectrum File Photo
The M.A.C. Center curse strikes again.
In a crucial game last year at the Memorial A&C Center in Kent, Ohio, the men's basketball team had the lead and all the momentum going into the second half, but inevitably lost it and the game.
It was déjà vu all over again as Kent State (19-6, 9-3 Mid-American Conference) once again parlayed a strong second-half showing, with some clutch 3-point shooting to beat the Bulls (16-7, 9-3 MAC), 76-71 on Tuesday night.
The loss snaps the eight-game winning streak, as Kent State ties Buffalo for second place in the MAC standings and that all important double-bye into the semifinals of the MAC Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio.
"It was a hard-fought game," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "We came up short. We didn't close it out. We had a rough start to the second half, we rebounded from that a bit but we just have to get better from here."
The Buffalo defense that has been the hallmark for this team for the last eight games fell apart in the second half, as the Golden Flashes were able to consistently get good shots off.
Kent State shot 43 percent from the field, and went 11-of-18 from behind the arc. Second half runs of 13-0 and 11-2 doomed the Bulls.
"Some of [the problems for the Bulls defensively] was breakdown of the zone, and some of it was tough shots," Witherspoon said. "We just have to do a better job at closing out on shooters and making them put the ball down on the floor. We have been doing that pretty well all year and we just had a slip up tonight."
For the Golden Flashes, forward Justin Greene led the team in scoring with 18 points. He was one of four players in double digits, as guards Michael Porrini (16), Randal Holt (15) and Carlton Guyton (11) also made big shots, especially from 3-point range. Kent State was especially effective from deep in the second half going 7-for-9, including a step back three from Guyton in the final minute that was a dagger for the Golden Flashes.
A bright spot for the Bulls was the first-half play of senior guard Zach Filzen. He was on fire, scoring 17 of his game high 20 points in the opening half, as he was impossible to stop.
His play didn't translate to second half success, as he only made one of four shots in the final frame.
"I thought he got a little anxious to shot the next one, and that can get you out of rhythm," Witherspoon said. "Sometimes you can be on a little streak, but if you're too anxious to shoot the next shot, then it knocks you out of rhythm, and I think he was anxious to shoot the next one."
For the second straight game, senior forward Mitchell Watt shook off first half struggles to perform well in the second. He scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds, after being held to only two points in the first half due to foul trouble. At one point mid way through the second half, Watt went down awkwardly and lay on the court for a few minutes. It looked like an ugly fall but Watt was able to hang tough through the remainder of the game.
An unusual moment occurred late in the second half after a made 3-pointer by the Golden Flashes. During a timeout, Porrini appeared to go into the Bulls bench, taunting the Bulls players and the staff, including Witherspoon.
Both Porrini and Buffalo received technical fouls, but it was a situation that could have been much worse.
"It's the kind of thing that college basketball doesn't need," Witherspoon said. "Our guys were very good. That's the kind of thing that leads to a bad things happening in college basketball. We've seen that before. That could have led to a bench-clearing brawl."
The Bulls look to start a new winning streak in another tough environment as they head out of conference to take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (20-7) in the SEARS ESPN Bracket Buster challenge on Saturday. Tipoff for the game at Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota is slated for noon and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
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