Flashes beat Bulls in the end

Sean Joseph

Sophomore forward Mike Scott grabs the rim after making a basket. Kent State defeated Buffalo 76-67 last night, propelling the team to the semifinals at 7 p.m. tonight against Ohio. ALLIEY BENDER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Not many games are won by a team that scores only three field goals in the last 12 minutes of play.

But that’s exactly what the Kent State men’s basketball team did last night in the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Cleveland, defeating Buffalo 76-67.

The Flashes (23-8, 15-3 MAC) sent the Bulls home and earned a spot in the semifinals at 7 p.m. tonight against Ohio, keeping their hopes of a MAC Tournament title and an NCAA Tournament berth alive.

The Flashes flexed in the second half and sat on their 19-point lead as the Bulls reared their horns and went on a 13-0 run. Senior forward Kevin Warzynski snapped Kent State’s cold streak with a 3-pointer that Kent State coach Jim Christian said “took the lid off the basket.”

Warzynski stepped up his aggressive play to save the game with a defensive stop on Buffalo’s next possession after senior center Nate Gerwig, who scored 10 points, got in foul trouble.

Buffalo forced Kent State to the free-throw line in the final minute where it made 7-of-8 to sustain its lead and win the game.

The Flashes’ game plan was to stop Bulls’ senior guard Calvin Cage, said senior guard DeAndre Haynes, who finished with 10 points. In the first half, they limited him to 1-of-6 from the floor, but he led Buffalo’s run in the second half with 12 points.

Junior forward Armon Gates led with 19 points and gave Kent State a lead they could sustain by hitting 6-of-7 3-pointers. Two of the treys came in the second half before Buffalo’s streak.

“My teammates were just finding me,” Gates said. “It wasn’t all me.”

Kent State’s defense smothered Buffalo in the first half, limiting it to 10-of-28 from the floor and out-rebounding the Bulls 23-14 in the half. The Flashes shot 37 percent in the second half, but were able to grab 16 offensive rebounds along with 12 second-chance points.

“When you give a team three or four shots on the basket, you’re tying yourself up,” Buffalo senior guard Cedric Middleton said. “We pretty much just beat ourselves tonight.”

Christian said the team was winded in the second half, and it showed after the team scored 27 points in the first eight minutes of the half, increasing its lead to 19 and letting Buffalo pull to four points with 1:42 left to play.

“You know teams aren’t going to go away this time of year,” Christian said. “We had a rough stretch but started tough again. I’m really proud of them.”

As the team awaited the outcome of the game between Ohio and Miami to determine tonight’s opponent, Christian did not care to speculate on which team he would prefer to see. Ohio is the No. 5 seed in the tournament, but the defending MAC Tournament Champions who knocked Kent State out last year.

“At this point I’d rather play neither team,” Christian said. “I’d rather the game go into quadruple overtime and both teams have to submit.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected].