Bulls drop 16th-consecutive game at Kent State in OT heartbreaker
The Bulls were unable to hold off Kent State on the road, as Buffalo lost to the Flashes on a last-second field goal, 83-81. It was the Bulls' 16th-straight loss on the road at Kent State. Rachael Le Goubin /// Daily Kent Stater
The men's basketball team appeared to be on its way to its first-ever victory in Kent State's MAC Center.
That is, until Kent State (16-12, 6-7 Mid-American Conference) senior Chris Evans hit a buzzer-beating bank shot in overtime. The shot extended the Bulls' (11-17, 6-7 MAC) MAC Center losing streak to 16 with an 83-81 defeat.
The Bulls held a five-point lead with just under five minutes remaining in regulation before the Golden Flashes tied the game with a minute left. Freshman guard Jarryn Skeete missed a jumper as time expired, sending the game to overtime.
"You look at two very similar situations, at the end of regulation, where Jarryn's shot just didn't go in; it was a nice drive and it just didn't fall," said head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "Evans' shot was a very similar situation, and his hit high off the glass and does go in."
Witherspoon attributed the Bulls' late struggles to consistent rebounding woes.
"The thing that is most disappointing is the fact that we got outrebounded," said Witherspoon, whose team dropped the rebounding battle 46-38. "We can't have just one guy rebounding. It's got to be more than that."
That "one guy" was junior forward Javon McCrea, who dominated the game in every aspect. McCrea had a game-high 32 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high eight blocks - just missing a triple-double.
The Bulls were outrebounded 30-16 over the course of the second half and overtime periods, after leading the rebounding edge 22-16 at the end of the first half.
Junior forward Cameron Downing was the team's second-leading rebounder, grabbing five boards and adding 13 points (5 for 5 from the field), but he fouled out in just 19 minutes of play.
For the second-straight game, the Bulls were one statistical category short of a win. On Saturday against Manhattan (11-16, 8-8 Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference), they turned the ball over 24 times. But Buffalo limited its turnovers against the Golden Flashes on Wednesday, committing just 10.
"We were up 12 [in the second half], but it's not like the game [was] over," Witherspoon said. "They're going to go on a run, too. It's not like they are just going to go away. No team is just going to say: 'You're up 12, so we lost.' It was a tight game between two good teams."
The Golden Flashes made it a point to shut down senior guard Tony Watson - who had averaged 26.3 points per game in his previous three contests. Watson played every minute of the game and scored just five points while going 2 for 5 from the field. Instead of being the Bulls' hot hand from the outside, he became a distributor - tying his career high with eight assists.
"He found the open man," Witherspoon said. "I thought he did a very good job of getting the ball to where it needed to be."
Although Watson did not hit a 3-pointer in regulation, with 19 seconds remaining in overtime, he hit a game-tying three and was fouled. But Watson missed the free throw.
Kent State guard Randal Holt finished with a team-high 28 points, including six 3-pointers, and the late game Bull-killer, Evans, finished with 14 points.
Wednesday's loss puts the Bulls in a four-way tie with Kent State, Bowling Green (12-16, 6-7 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (13-15, 6-7 MAC) for the fifth-overall seed in the MAC Tournament.
The Bulls are now on a two-game losing streak and face the two toughest teams in the MAC in their next two games.
Akron (23-4, 13-0 MAC) comes to town and puts its nation-high 19 straight wins on the line on Saturday for a 6 p.m. start. Ohio (20-8, 11-2 MAC) - which has only lost in conference this season against Akron - makes its season debut in Alumni Arena on Tuesday.
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