Men’s basketball (12-13, 6-6 MAC) lost to Kent State (20-5, 10-2 MAC) 72-65 in Friday’s nationally televised home game against the Mid-American Conference’s top seed.
The Bulls had a convincing first half, leading 25-14 at one point, but couldn’t hold back the Golden Flashes. With the loss, UB dropped to seventh in the MAC.
UB debuted its new black jerseys — which depict the Buffalo skyline — in front of a thunderous Alumni Arena home crowd. UB’s hot start fueled the fans, and the Bulls went to halftime with a 35-29 lead.
“I thought we were really sharp in the first half,” Bulls head coach Jim Whitesell said postgame. “We had some tough turnovers, and I thought that if we took care of the ball a little better, we would have had a bigger lead.”
Turnovers harmed UB all game. The Bulls ended up giving the ball away 21 times, resulting in 29 Kent State points.
“Our biggest culprit was turnovers,” Whitesell said. “We had 21 of them. They played good defense, give them credit. We had more turnovers than assists.”
UB’s defense deteriorated in the second half. They gave up 43 points in the half and, to make matters worse, made only six free throws despite being in the bonus for the majority of the latter frame.
“We talked about that several times,” Whitesell said. “We needed to get our drive game going. We shot consecutive 3-point attempts and we didn’t attempt to get to the free-throw line.”
Regardless of the score, Whitesell believes his team is getting better and more “game ready” with the MAC Tournament on the horizon.
“[A] couple of guys just didn’t have the game they usually have, but my team is getting better and they’re right there, we just have to get more complete,” Whitesell said. “We just have to bounce back and keep forging ahead.”
Sophomore guard Curtis Jones, the Bulls’ top scorer, was subdued by Kent State’s defense. He scored seven points on 3-6 shooting. Jones scored fewer than 10 points in only two of his last 15 games.
After a team-high 21-point performance on Tuesday, junior forward Isaiah Adams had just six points on 2-8 shooting. He also committed five turnovers.
Senior forward LaQuill Hardnett scored 14, but ran into foul trouble in the second half and committed a team-high six turnovers.
Junior guard Zid Powell led the way for UB with 15 points in 22 minutes, and junior center Jonnivius Smith was a bright spot for the Bulls, scoring a season-high 14 points along with eight boards, a block and two steals.
The Bulls play next on Tuesday, traveling to Ohio University to take on the Bobcats (13-11, 5-6 MAC). UB looks to repeat last month’s 75-73 victory over Ohio. The game begins at 7 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.
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