Buffalo’s McCrea puts up 31 points as Flashes fall to Bulls Saturday

Richard Mulhall

The Kent State’s men’s basketball team did not play a bad game against the Buffalo Bulls Saturday afternoon inside the M.A.C. Center — they just couldn’t stop senior forward Javon McCrea.

The scoring stud and leading rebounder in the MAC imposed his will on the Flashes’ defense in Saturday’s contest and posted 31 points en route to a commanding 78-69 Buffalo victory.

“Javon McCrea was great today,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said. “Their whole front court was great today. We really didn’t have any answers for him. We tried to play zone, tried to play man, tried to double him, it didn’t really matter.”

The Flashes (15-12, 6-8 Mid-American Conference) did a good job shutting McCrea down in the beginning of first half, keeping the muscle-bound, 6-foot-7 forward scoreless in the first 11 minutes of play.

With McCrea stymied and the Flashes’ offense rolling, Kent State led Buffalo (16-8, 10-4 MAC) 10-2 in the first six plus minutes of the game.

Kent State guards and forwards alike continued to exhaust McCrea’s efforts to put up points until later on in the half when McCrea finally caught his bearings and broke the ice with a thunderous dunk that gave him his first two points of the contest.

Things only got better for McCrea and the Bulls and worse for the Flashes after that dunk.    

McCrea went on to score 16 points in just under 10 minutes and quickly turned the first-half into a one-man show.  

He penetrated Kent State defense and dominated the paint to help Buffalo seize a 32-31 lead at the half.

In the second McCrea picked up right where he left and continued to pick apart the Kent State’s defense, adding another 15 points in the second to his 31-point performance.

The Flashes’ couldn’t even catch a break from McCrea at the foul line, either, as he sank 13 of his 16 free throw attempts.

“He’s a monster,” Senderoff said of McCrea. “Javon McCrea is a great, great player, one of the best players to play in the MAC as long as I’ve been here.

Despite McCrea’s offensive dominance, the Flashes kept plugging away and pounding the ball down Buffalo’s throat to match McCrea’s inside presence. Sophomore guard Kellon Thomas used the same strategy he used against Akron this season and drove the ball inside to try to open up the three ball around the perimeter while junior guards Kris Brewer and Devareaux Manley stuck to their strengths with perimeter shots, connecting on five three-pointers between the two of them.

Senderoff emphasized that offense was not the problem Saturday — the team shot 45.6 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from beyond the arc.

“There have been days where our guards haven’t been as good, but today our guards were very good,” Senderoff said.

The Flashes’ offensive regime put up a valiant effort  — Brewer had 16 points, Thomas had 13, Manley had 11 — but it could not make up for the defense’s inability to stop McCrea.

“These guys are competing, and in the locker room, I wasn’t mad about our effort, our effort was there,” Senderoff said. “To a degree, we just got punked by a great player,” Senderoff said.

In the post-game press conference, Senderoff said that it was frustrating not having a great post player that could match up to McCrea.

The only big man and closest player to a center who could match McCrea in size and interior prowess is forward Kalique Spicer, who did not play his best game Saturday afternoon.

The 6-foot-nine sophomore only had three points and one block and shot 1-5 from the field and 1-6 from the foul line.

“I think [Spicer’s] going to be very very good, but today was not his day, he had a tough day today,” Senderoff said. He’s really struggling from the line and he’s in his own head right now.”

After Saturday’s loss in the one-game home stand against Buffalo, things will not get any easier for Kent State as the Flashes will go back on the road this week to take on Bowling Green (11-16, 5-9 MAC) Wednesday and face Ohio (19-8, 9-5) Saturday.

Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected].