UB Bulls defeat Kent State, move into second place tie in MAC East

Buffalo sweeps season series behind Evans’ 21 points

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On Saturday, the men's basketball team found itself with much higher stakes than the last time it played Kent State. 

Buffalo was eight games into Mid-American Conference play the last time it faced off against the Golden Flashes ON Jan. 30. The Bulls entered Saturday’s matchup riding a three-game winning streak and in control of their fate for a second straight MAC East title.

The Bulls (19-9, 10-6 MAC) pulled out a victory over Kent State (19-10, 10-6 MAC) 71-65 in the MAC Center in Kent, Ohio in their first four-game winning streak of the season. Buffalo has now moved into a tie with the Golden Flashes for second place in the MAC East.

Head coach Bobby Hurley was pleased with the team’s play against the Golden Flashes.

“We got off to a really good start,” Hurley said. “[Junior guard Jarryn] Skeete ignited things. We put points on the board early against a really good defensive team. We survived [junior forward Justin Moss] being in foul trouble in the first half. We’ve been in a ton of tough games and we responded tonight.”

Entering tonight’s matchup against the Bulls, Kent State had the best three-point defense in the MAC, allowing opponents to shoot just 30 percent from beyond the arc against them. The last time the Bulls and Golden Flashes squared off, Buffalo shot 36 percent against them in a rout.

The Bulls wasted little time to break Kent State’s perimeter defense. In the first 2:24 of the game, Skeete hit all four 3-pointers he attempted, giving the Bulls an early 12-7 lead.

Along with Skeete’s play, freshman guard Lamonte Bearden played well on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Bearden shot just 3 of 7 from the floor, but attacked the basket as he got to the free-throw line 11 times and converted on eight.

Defensively, Bearden did a good job on Kent State’s Devareaux Manley. Manley averaged 13.4 points per game entering the matchup against the Bulls, but Bearden helped hold him to just 1-of-10 shooting for the first half and  Manley to 4 of 18 from the floor for the entire game.

The Bulls entered halftime with a 34-31 lead, but battled to do so. The Bulls endured a 13-2 run by Kent State from 8:40 – 3:43. Buffalo went 1 for 7 in the final three minutes of the half.

In the second half, sophomore guard Shannon Evans carried the Bulls' offense.

Evans scored 14 points and went 5 of 5 from the floor in the second half. He also dished out three assists and racked up two steals.

He credited his offensive success to the team’s stimulating defense in the second half.

“We preached about defense at the end of the first half,” Evans said. “Coach spoke to us and we made it a mindset in the second half. We wanted to be good on the defensive end. We know we can score, but we wanted to finish on the defensive end.”

The defense in the second half was instrumental for the Bulls as they pushed their lead to 15 points with 4:36 left in the game.

The Golden Flashes were able to make it a double-possession game with less than 10 seconds remaining due to a 16-5 run. But Evans sunk two free-throws with nine seconds remaining in the game to seal it for the Bulls.

Evans finished with 21 points, six assists and two steals on the night for the Bulls. Bearden finished with 14 points and five rebounds, while Skeete added 14 points and two rebounds. Amid foul trouble, Moss finished with a season-low six points.

The Bulls return to Alumni Arena to close out the regular season. They face Ohio (9-18, 4-12 MAC) on Tuesday, and host Bowling Green (19-8, 11-5 MAC) on Friday night in a game that can possibly decide the MAC East.

Tuesday’s game is set for 7 p.m.

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