Dillard leads Buffalo to MAC Quarterfinal win over KSU


Junior guard Megan Carter attempts a layup against Buffalo’s tight defense during the second half on March 13 2019, Kent State lost, 85-52.  

Gina Butkovich

With a little under three minutes left in Kent State’s game against Buffalo, Kent State senior guard Alexa Golden was pulled from the game. Before sitting down, she went down the bench and hugged every player and coach.

The Flashes’ quarterfinal Mid-American Conference tournament game versus Buffalo could possibly be the final game for Golden and fellow senior center Merissa Barber-Smith.

“Those kids gave me make everything they had,” coach Todd Starkey said about Golden and Barber-Smith. “They didn’t have to trust me. All you’re looking for is for players to trust you, you know, and they did. They just trusted us. They wanted to win.”

Wednesday’s game was the second time Kent State has faced Buffalo in the span of five days. On Saturday, Kent State beat Buffalo 62-53. On Wednesday, the Flashes suffered their biggest defeat of the year, falling 85-52.

“I was walking past coach (Bob) Boldon on the way in from Ohio and just wished him good luck,” Starkey said. “He said, ‘When Buffalo’s really interested, they’re the best team in the league,’ and he’s right. They’re the most athletic team in the league.”

Golden and Barber-Smith both had five rebounds against the Bulls, while Golden also recorded five steals and three assists, while Barber-Smith had six points and two blocked shots.

“I’ve been really lucky to play with (Golden and Barber-Smith),” freshman forward Lindsey Thall said. “ It was really cool to get here to Cleveland for my first year.  We really wanted to get this one, but we’ve had a good run.”

Kent State’s scoring improved every period, scoring nine points in the first period and 16 points in the fourth. Buffalo scored 20 or more points every quarter.

I think they shot the ball a lot better than they did Saturday,” junior guard Megan Carter said. “They were getting good looks and they were converting. That was the difference.”

Carter led the Flashes with 19 points, going 7-for-19 from the field and 1-for-3 from 3. Thall was the only other Flash to finish above in double-digit with 12 points.

“I was just trying to play hard for the whole team and for the seniors,” Carter said. “I came in with (Golden) and (Barber-Smith) as a whole class. I just really wanted to play hard for them because we came in together. They meant a lot to me.”

Buffalo shot 50 percent from the field while putting up the highest scoring total the Kent State defense has allowed all season. Buffalo senior guard Cierra Dillard led the team in scoring with 22 points, while three other Buffalo players scored above 10 points.

“They got their hands on a lot more balls than they did the other day and really converted at the basket,” Starkey said. “Then Dillard knocking down some open shots early I think gave the whole team more confidence to really gamble a little bit more defensively and be able to come up with some things.”

Kent State hopes to play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The WNIT will announce its bracket on Monday night.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat,’” Starkey said. “And for all of our underclassmen, this isn’t a final defeat. For our seniors, we hope it’s not a final defeat because we think we have a favorable resume to get a WNIT bid. But I’m really pleased with where this program is right now and where we’re headed.”

Gina Butkovich is a sports reporter. Contact her at [email protected]