Flashes outlast Buffalo in physical game to advance to semifinals


Kent State senior forward Jimmy Hall floats a shot over Buffalo senior forward David Kadiri during the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Kent State won, 68-65.

Nick Buzzelli

Senior Jimmy Hall paused for a moment to think during Kent State’s postgame press conference when questioned about his final two free throws in retrospect of the game’s outcome. Then, he subtly asked the reporter whether he made or missed those shots.

Although he couldn’t recall those shots in particular without having his memory jogged, citing the fact that he tends to get “lost in the game,” Hall knew exactly what he and his teammates had to do to stop a late-game Buffalo run.

In a physical, grind-it-out game that featured 56 combined personal fouls, Hall calmly sank both free throws with 12.4 seconds left to lift Kent State (20-13 Mid-American Conference) over the University at Buffalo (17-15, 11-7 MAC), 68-65, Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

“It just took a lot of heart, a lot of grit. Buffalo definitely is a tough team,” said Hall, who finished with a game-high 24 points on 6-13 shooting from the floor. “They weren’t going to just lay down. But we tried to stay together as much as we can and just try to weather the storm and we’re just happy we got a win today.”

While Hall led all scorers with his game-high points and throws from the floor, senior Deon Edwin and sophomore Jaylin Walker chipped in 14 and 12 points, respectively. Buffalo was paced by Blake Hamilton’s 17 points.

After he picked up two quick fouls early in the first half, Hall sat for nearly seven minutes, giving sophomore Adonis De La Rosa extended minutes down low.

During that stretch, the Flashes regained the lead, courtesy of aWalker three-pointer at the 8:19. Though he was only 2-8 from the free throw line in 12 minutes of play, De La Rosa’s drew key turnovers on four UB charge calls.

“(De La Rosa) brought a big impact into the game. We couldn’t have gotten this win without him,” Edwin said. “Today was Adonis’ day to help us. Who knows — it could be somebody else off the bench to help us. You’re going to need everybody off the bench to win this (MAC championship).”

Kent State led by as many as 13 early in the final frame, but an 0-11 mark from the floor over the course of the next four minutes enabled Buffalo to cut the deficit to seven.

After Walker was whistled for a technical, his fifth foul of the game, Buffalo’s C.J. Massinburg and Willie Conner went 4-4 from the line to cut the deficit to three.

Ikenna Smart’s two free throws then narrowed the gap to one, but Hall was intentionally fouled on the ensuing possession, securing the win.

Despite the fact that Senderoff admitted it was difficult to get his team into a consistent rhythm due to the constant stoppages of play, he’s happy to be in the league’s quarterfinals for the first time since 2013.

“They’re very physical and … a very good defensive team,” he said.  “You know, sometimes you have to win ugly and sometimes you have to win by outscoring your opponent … So proud of the guys to be able to do that here tonight on a big stage.”

Kent State faces Ohio University — a team it split the season series with — Friday night at 8 p.m. for the chance to advance to the championship Saturday against the winner of the Akron/Ball State game.

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected].