Bulls Clinch Berth To Cleveland With 80-57 Win Over Kent State

Nick Perkins

BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo men's basketball team earned a bye to Cleveland for the sixth straight season on Friday night as the Bulls defeated the Kent State Golden Flashes 80-57 in front of a record crowd of 6,688, the largest to see a game in the arena's current configuration.  The Bulls also claimed their 24th straight win at home, improving to 24-3 on the season and 12-2 in Mid-American Conference Play.

The Bulls turned up the defensive intensity against the Golden Flashes, forcing 24 turnovers, which UB turned into 30 points. Kent State also went just 2-of-13 from three point range in the contest.

There wasn't much separation between the two teams for much of the first half as the battle held to its billing of Rivalry Week, which ESPN2 displayed multiple times during the national broadcast.

The Bulls opened a seven point advantage in the first half with 6:15 left on a dunk from senior Montell McRae, giving Buffalo the 21-14 lead.  The Golden Flashes were able to erase it though, tying the game up at 23-23 with 3:34 left.  Kent State even went ahead by a pair with 1:54 left, when the Bulls changed the entire momentum of the game over the final 75 seconds of the half. 

Senior Nick Perkins drilled a three to put UB back ahead and then sophomore Jayvon Graves blocked a shot on the other end, which turned into two more points from Perkins.  A turnover in the backcourt by Kent State led to a CJ Massinburg three-point attempt, which was short, but Graves followed it up with the huge put back dunk, sending the capacity crowd to its feet.  Following a Kent State offensive foul, UB capped the late 10-0 run with a banked in three from Perkins as time expired, giving Buffalo the 35-27 lead into the break.

UB opened the second half on a quick 12-4 run as a three-pointer from Massinburg and a layup from senior Jeremy Harris extended the Buffalo advantage to 47-31.  Kent State pulled back within 12 with 13:00 left, but the Bulls went on another 7-0 run, capped off on a three point play from Perkins, which gave Buffalo a 58-39 lead with 11:32 remaining.

The Bulls led 70-54 when they scored eight straight points, which began on a thunderous one handed dunk from freshman Jeenathan Williams. A layup by junior Davonta Jordan gave UB the 78-54 lead, its largest of the night.

"It was a fun game," said head coach Nate Oats.  "We talk about getting better every game and I thought we were better defensively tonight than we were on Tuesday night. We didn't shoot the ball nearly as well as we did last game, but to score 80 points and win by 23 says a lot about what we did on the defensive end."

Perkins led all players with a career high 27 points as he went 9-of-15 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.  He also added six rebounds and three steals.

Massinburg scored 18 points as he moved into third place on UB's all-time scoring list, surpassing hall of famer Jim Horne.  Massinburg now has 1,835 points in his Buffalo career.  Massinburg also added five rebounds, two assists and a career high five steals.

Harris finished the night with 12 points, while Jordan stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, seven rebounds, and eight assists. Graves added seven points, seven rebounds, four helpers, and two blocks.

The Bulls dominated the specialty stats as they had a 30-10 advantage in points off turnovers, a 50-30 advantage in points in the paint, an 18-10 advantage in second chance points and a led 17-8 in fast break points.  The UB bench also outscored Kent State, 33-15.

Prior to the game on Friday night, senior Dontay Caruthers was honored with the Leonard Serfustini Sportsmanship award, which is presented annually to a UB men's basketball senior.

Buffalo closes out its three-game homestand on Tuesday night when the Bulls host Akron at 7:00 pm at Alumni Arena.