CLEVELAND, OHIO -- Buffalo came for a basketball game Thursday night, but found themselves in a boxing match.
The Bulls saw their quest for a conference three-peat come to an end in a physical game that featured 56 total fouls and 75 free throw attempts. Five different players fouled out of the game, including senior guard Blake Hamilton and sophomore forward Nick Perkins for Buffalo.
The No. 3 seeded Buffalo Bulls (17-16, 11-8 Mid-American Conference) were defeated by the No. 6 seeded Kent State Golden Flashes (21-13, 11-8) 68-65 on Thursday night in the MAC quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. The game was a two and half hour slugfest that featured questionable officiating on both ends. The two teams combined 25 turnovers and just 11 assists.
“We've got a bunch of fighters,” said head coach Nate Oats after the game. “I think it was eight, we were down eight with under four minutes to go and we just told them get some stops, we've got to quit giving up O-boards.”
Buffalo trailed for the entire second half but came within one point with 12.9 seconds left. Sophomore guard CJ Massinburg came up short on a three-point attempt as time expired.
Hamilton was in foul trouble all night for Buffalo. He picked up his second foul 12 minutes and 15 seconds into the first half, and fourth with 12 minutes and 37 seconds left in the game. Buffalo was forced to put the ball in the hands of Massinburg and sophomore guard Dontay Caruthers to control the offense.
“We had to play [Hamilton] off the ball a lot, they were calling the charges and stuff,” Oats said. “We were just afraid of having it in his hands too much. CJ's not a natural point guard, he's more of a two guard. Dontay's starting to come along and he's getting better, but he's not really a natural point guard, either… I think if Blake hadn't been in foul trouble, we would have been alright with it.”
Hamilton had two charging fouls and an over-the-back in the game. He was emotional after the game recounting on his UB career.
Both teams had 38 rebounds each and shot exactly 18-of-51 from the field. The Bulls had 13 turnovers to the Flashes 12. The Flashes shot 41 free throws to the Bulls 34.
“If you look at the numbers, it's kind of crazy, everything’s pretty much dead even,” Oats said. “They shot seven more free throws, that's the difference in the game right there. For whatever reason, we couldn't keep them off the free throw line… we had three starters foul out of the game, so I don't really have an answer for it, but it's hard to live with.”
Massinburg had a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Although he admitted he thought the referees had missed a few calls, Massinburg did not blame the officials for the result.
“Coach tells us not worry about the officials and just go out there and play,” Massinburg said. “They’re going to call what they call, pretty much nothing we can do about it, but if we got stops and got out in transition, then, I mean can't really worry about the refs.”
Hamilton fouled out of the game with four minutes and 47 seconds remaining and watched the Bulls comeback attempt from the bench. The senior was emotional after the game when reflecting on his UB career.
“I was overlooked a lot,” said Hamilton with tears in his eyes. “Coach Oats gave me the opportunity to play. They believed in me. I'm just happy to be a Bull.”
Hamilton crossed the 1,000 career points barrier in the game and will finish his career with 1,004 total points. Along with Hamilton, UB will also graduate wing Willie Conner, forward David Kadiri, forward Raheem Johnson, and guard Christian Pino.
Hamilton and Conner entered the program last year as junior college transfers and helped the Bulls repeat as MAC Champions.
“Those guys all walked in and kept this program at a pretty high level, took us back to the NCAA tournament,” Oats said. “Blake took the big shot to win in the championship. They were huge for us… Blake's never been a point guard before in his life and kind of took that over for us. They mean a lot to the program. Even though those guys were only here for two years, they had two of the better years in Buffalo basketball history.”
Kent State will move on to the semifinals to take on Ohio tomorrow night at 8 p.m.
Michael Akelson is the Senior Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com