Buffalo has never seen a crowd like this one. The Bulls, in front of 6,688 fans, dazzled to the delight of the largest crowd they’ve had since Alumni Arena was redesigned.
Buffalo (24-3, 12-2 Mid-American Conference) beat Kent State (19-8, 8-6 MAC) 80-57 on Friday night, their 24th-straight win at home, and clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming MAC tournament. The Bulls led the game in field goal percentage, assists and steals while only committing 10 turnovers.
“We need to send a statement,” said head coach Nate Oats. “We are seven seeds right now. Everyone has us against Kentucky right now. So we better hurry up and get us out of that seven seed, or if they put us there, we need to be playing well enough to be to play a team like that in the seventh seed.”
Both teams had a sloppy opening 10 minutes, filled with turnovers and jump balls. The Bulls only led the Golden Flashes 12-10.
Buffalo knew it had to make some adjustments and fix its play. The Bulls ended the half with a 10-0 run in the final 75 seconds of play. Senior forward Nick Perkins began and finished the run with a pair of three-pointers: the Bulls’ only made threes of the half. Buffalo headed into the locker room with a 35-27 lead over Kent State.
Perkins led the scoring for the Bulls, putting up a new career-high of 27 points. He also had six rebounds, three steals and an assist to go along with his scoring effort.
“I think I might of known [my point total],” Perkins said. “My teammates found me tonight. Jayvon, Davonta and CJ found me on some good locations so I was able to get some easy buckets.”
The Bulls came out in the second half looking to defend their lead. They defended hard and ended up increasing their lead to 23 by the final buzzer. Senior guard CJ Massinburg also picked up a majority of his points in the second half.
Massinburg finished with 18 points, putting him at third in Buffalo’s all time scoring list, passing UB great Jim Horne.
“I watched a lot of film and I’ve been playing against Jaylin Walker for four years and I’ve watched every bucket he’s scored on me. I knew what I could have done better and I played hard and tried to pressure him.”
Although Buffalo didn’t manage to match their current season average of 85.7 points per game, the 80 points ended up being enough for the win. The Bulls’ defensive effort led the way, totaling four blocks and 13 steals.
Perkins’ scoring ability and the overall play of Massinburg proved to be too much for Kent State to handle, despite the scoring abilities of Kent State guard Antonio Williams and guard Jaylin Walker.
The Bulls will play the Akron Zips on Tuesday at Alumni Arena. Tip off is at 7 p.m., as Buffalo will look for its 25th-straight home victory.
Andrew Fitzgerald and Germain Brown are staff writers and can be reached at email@example.com.