The Bulls (14-7, 12-5) defeated Kent State (15-7, 12-6) 81-68 on Senior Day at Alumni Arena Friday. With the win, UB clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament.
In his final game at Alumni, senior guard Jayvon Graves came out aggressive on the offensive end, scoring nine of Buffalo’s first 15 points.
“This place has been so special to me. I’ve made so many memories. [I have] a lot of history here,” Graves said following the win. “I know we’re not done yet but it was great to play at Alumni Arena and have family there.”
Graves finished his all-around performance with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while also grabbing three steals. The St. Vincent-St. Mary alum continued to climb the UB all-time scoring list, becoming the tenth leading scorer in Bulls history.
Kent State struggled to find any type of rhythm offensively in the first half, shooting just 8-for-34 from the field.
Despite the Golden Flashes’ offensive woes, they only trailed the Bulls 33-24 at the half.
But UB never gave up its lead and wreaked havoc on the defensive end, forcing 10 Kent State turnovers in the second half.
Late in that half, Graves intercepted a pass and delivered a beautiful cross-court dime to junior forward Jeenathan Williams, who converted an and-one layup with four defenders draped over him. Williams’ three-point play gave the Bulls an 11-point lead with 6:52 left in the game.
After a slow start, Williams, the Bulls’ leading scorer, came out firing, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the second half. The Rochester native shot 8-11 from the field and came down with six boards in the contest.
UB is the reigning MAC champion on a technicality; last year’s MAC Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. Graves and the Bulls are embracing the opportunity to bring another banner to Alumni Arena.
“I feel like we definitely have what it takes, we’re a resilient group,” Graves said. “We have a lot of talented guys. We know what it takes and our coaches already have the right game plan for us.”
Head coach Jim Whitesell’s team has won eight out of its last nine games, as it gains momentum it hopes to build off going into the MAC Tournament.
“We’re playing good basketball. We played tough conference competition,” Whitesell said. “We’re well versed in what we might see in the tournament. This is the healthiest we’ve been all year so we’re feeling good. All signs are positive.”
The Bulls look to win their fifth MAC championship as they travel to Cleveland to face No. 7 seed Miami (OH) (12-10, 9-8) on Thursday at the Rocket Mortgage Field House.
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