February 19, 2008

Flashes hold on at Buffalo

Buffalo, N.Y.-- The wins aren't coming easy for Kent State, but the Golden Flashes won't complain as long as they continue to win. Tuesday at Buffalo the Flashes jumped out to a 19-point first half lead and withstood a late Buffalo surge to top the Bulls, 76-66, in front of 1,206 at Alumni Arena.

"Buffalo's a very good team at home; I knew they were going to come back," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian. "I was proud of our kids' poise. Every time they made a run we seemed to answer it and that's what you have to do. It's the end of February and we're just trying to hang on and win."

With the win, Kent State moved to 22-5 overall and 11-2 in the Mid-American Conference East Division.

Senior forward Mike Scott opened the game with a 3-pointer and a pair of Chris Singletary free throws and a dunk by Haminn Quaintance pushed the Flashes lead to 7-2. Buffalo's Jawaan Alston cut the lead to 7-4 before Kent State went on a 5-0 run to take a 12-4 lead with 16:28 remaining in the first half.

"I think (Kent State) started the game off with a sense of urgency that we got hit in the mouth with," said Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon.

Midway through the first half the Golden Flashes switched from their customary man defense to a suffocating zone defense that forced nine turnovers in the first period. The Flashes scored 15 points off those turnovers and led by as many as 19 before taking a 41-26 lead into the locker room.

"We started the game in man and we just weren't playing really well in it; we weren't as aggressive as we normally are," Christian said. "We played a lot of zone tonight which we normally don't do. We've been effective in it when we've played it. I thought our guys did a great job adjusting as the game went on. That was a big stretch in the first half when we went to the zone and kind of stopped them for a little bit, got them out of rhythm, and we were able to capitalize on the other end."

Back-to-back buckets by Scott gave Kent State a 47-28 lead with 18:29 remaining in the game, but the Bulls (8-17, 2-11) responded. Andy Robinson converted an and-one to start an 8-0 Bulls run capped by a Byron Mulkey jumper and 3-pointer that cut Kent State's lead to just 11. Scott hit a jumper but Buffalo's Calvin Betts hit a three to make the score 49-39.

That's when sophomore guard Mike McKee went to work for the Flashes. McKee missed his first 3-pointer of the night but went on to hit his next three, all within a five-minute span in the middle of the second half to help preserve the Golden Flashes lead.

"Mike's a great shooter; that's what he's going to do," Christian said. "I thought guys did a great job of find him. Everyone was in rhythm. If he gets time and space he's usually going to knock them in. They were all big shots."

McKee's final three gave Kent State a 65-47 lead with just 8:13 remaining, but again the Bulls came back.

Sophomore guard Sean Smiley scored all eight of his points in the final seven minutes of the game to help the Bulls put together another 8-0 run to pull to within 70-62 of the Flashes. But that's as close as Buffalo would get as Kent State pulled away for the win.

Fisher led the Golden Flashes with 20 points while Quaintance contributed 14 points and a team-high six rebounds.

The victory was the 1,000 win in school history.

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