Flashes lose halftime lead, game against Buffalo in N.Y.

Matt Goul

BUFFALO, N.Y.— It is hard enough to stop a team when it does not miss shots.

It’s even harder when you don’t have any timeouts to contemplate stopping it.

Kent State held a 64-63 lead when sophomore forward Scott Cutley took its last timeout with 4:54 left in a 77-66 loss at Buffalo last night. In taking the timeout, he then saved possession for the Flashes as he was about to fall out of bounds after battling defenders for the ball.

It was the last good play he and his teammates made.

Cutley’s possession-saving timeout was negated on the ensuing inbounds pass, which Buffalo (16-7, 9-6 Mid-American Conference) turned into its last go-ahead basket. The Bulls ran to a 14-2 momentum swing to finish the game and dropped Kent State (16-9, 8-6 MAC) out of a four-way tie for third place in the conference.

Kent State coach Jim Christian could do little to stop it in the final minutes. He did not regret taking timeouts earlier in the second half.

“I tried to regain composure for our basketball team,” Christian said. “I wanted to call them (timeouts) early before the game got out of control.”

Buffalo rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit by scoring the first seven in the second half.

Kent State led by as many as 11 in the first half, but Turner Battle scored as much as he could to keep the Bulls from falling too far behind. Of Buffalo’s starters, Battle scored all but one point in the first half. He scored 18 first-half points and finished with a game-high 22.

No other starter scored a field goal until Daniel Gilbert’s 3-pointer about three minutes into the second half. Once Gilbert hit it, Buffalo was within two. Battle later tied the score at 48 with about 14 minutes left in the game.

“We came out too comfortable in the second half,” said Jay Youngblood, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.

The Flashes did not get a shot attempt off until after Gilbert’s 3. They started the half with five straight turnovers. By the time freshman guard Marcus Crenshaw attempted — and made — their first shot, Buffalo already had momentum swung its way.

Both teams traded baskets until the final timeout was taken. Christian still had opportunities to huddle his team during media timeouts, but no more.

“Any free throw, we have to huddle up and make sure everybody on the court knows what we’re in,” senior guard Jason Edwin said.

Edwin scored 13 points, but all of them came in the first half.

He attributed the second-half stumbling to sloppy offense and a less aggressive defense.

Kent State broke a one-point deficit midway through the first half with a 9-0 run. Edwin started it with a 3. It continued with scores coming in transition and close to the basket. Christian said earlier this season he wanted his players playing aggressively. He got that assertive play in the first half.

Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon recognized it.

“We were playing like we were in the first round of a fight and trying to feel our way around,” Witherspoon said. “They were going for the knockout.”

The knockout did not come until later — after Buffalo regained the lead for good.

The first staggering punch came with 6-foot-10 Yassin Idbihi’s 3 from the top of the key, giving Buffalo a 68-64 lead. A flurry of free throws followed.

The loss was Kent State’s third at Buffalo in the last four seasons. The first two, while Buffalo was still inexperienced and struggling, were split and each decided by one point. The last two have been double-digit losses after the Flashes beat Buffalo at home.

“The last two years when we were at their place, we felt we were right there,” Battle said. “This year we felt we should have won. They outplayed us and out hustled us. We just tasted that.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Matt Goul at [email protected].