It's a Trap!
The first few possessions went about as strongly as possible for the Golden Flashes, who lept out to an early 6-0 lead on the strength of two three pointers. Meanwhile, UB couldn't really get anything to fall, and the crummy start extended to 9-2, at which point Jarod Oldham was the only Bull with really any sort of production on the offensive end, and was the clear defensive leader as the Flashes threatened to run away.
Unfortunately, it would get worse before it got better as with 9 minutes left in the half UB had let Kent get out to a 19-7 lead.
Everything but the Points
In those first 9 minutes, Javon McCrea managed to do a bit of everything except get on the scoresheet, with three early rebounds and an assist. The Kraken would finish the half with six boards and that lone assist.
Better Late than Never
After a while, the Bulls remembered how to score. In a season of slow starts, this may have been one of the worst, but UB was able to cut that 19-7 difference all the way down to 19-17 thanks to a 10 point run that ended with a Josh Freelove three. Devereaux Manley would answer with a three of his own, but that 19-7 deficit ultimately turned into a 24-24 tie on McCrea's ninth point of the half. The teams traded runs before heading into the half with a 33-32 UB advantage.
Sometimes you'll find that a team uses a big run to get back into a game, and then has expended all their energy and can't quite stay in it. Today, you just saw the Bulls wake up, get back into it, and then firmly establish themselves as the better team. It was refreshing to see after such a bad beginning.
Tough on the Boards...
Jarod Oldham picked up his third foul with a little over three minutes left in the half. As I mentioned above, Oldham was the defensive star of the early going for UB, and this was cause for concern, especially since at the time it felt like UB was getting crushed on the board. Kent was getting a lot of second chances on the offensive glass, but UB actuall held a 16-15 edge on the boards on their way to an 18-16 advantage at the half
..but from the Line
The book on Kent coming into the game was that the team fouls a ton, but also can't convert from the line themselves. It became apparent early on that today would be no different. The Flashes misses from the lines cost them chances to open up a larger lead, and McCrea made them pay on UB's end, converting 6 of 7 from the line thanks to Kent fouls. Will Regan also continued his great free throw shooting to make Kent pay.
Many ways to skin a cat
The first half ended on a McCrea layup and a tight 33-32 UB lead, but each team got their points in different ways. Kent got contributions from a half dozen different players, while Javon's 16 on 5-10 shooting and 6-7 from the line accounted for nearly half of the Bulls' points.
Quick Start / Record Breaker
This time, it was UB with the quick start. A Freelove three, and 5 points from McCrea both moved Javon up in the UB Books, and helped the Bulls open up a lead they would hold for the entire second half. Kent stayed within range for a time, but after a while UB opened things up to double digits.
Trickle Down Basketball
The second half really did belong to UB, who controlled the play throughout and forced the Flashes to take multiple timeouts to curb the momentum. A big three from Will Regan made it 53-47 Buffalo, marked the forward's 12th point, and led to a Kent timeout at the 11:47 mark. Regan would finish with 15 on the day.
If McCrea was the star of the game for fifteen minute spanning the halftime break, Justin Moss took things over in the next ten. Beginning the middle of the half, the sophomore put on his own mini-run, going 1 of 2 on free throws before finishing a three point play. Before I could even count up his seven points, he had followed that up with a layup off a turnover that made it 59-49 and forced another KSU timeout.
Moss would finish the game with 12 points in 12 minutes on the floor, just a hair off his career and season high of 14 set against Western Michigan. Shannon Evans has the flash, the recruiting cachet, and more minutes, but Moss has been an impressive newcomer in his own right. His ability to step in down low this season and spell Javon for 4-6 minutes at a time has been huge for UB.
This is a quick little blurb, but I *love* Hurley's practice of switching into a zone for 2 or 3 possessions just to mix things up. It's been successful on multiple occasions this year, but never moreso than the second half this afternoon. There were at least two or three times where the switch to a zone immediately created a turnover and some points as Kent looked for any way to claw back into the game.
Adventures in Pep Band
Kent's contingent is loud and fills up the radio broadcast, but the first song I recognized came late in the game. A bass-heavy rendition of Macklemore's "Can't Hold Us," it was fine, but you need the high crass to really make that song shine.
McCrea comes up Big late
Two quick threes for Kent diminished a commanding UB lead, made it a two possession game, and brought the crowd to life. With things getting dicey and Bulls fans remembering other late game collapses, a Will Regan board helped spur 5 quick points for Javon, which stopped the home momentum and iced things away. Two late rebounds got him to 11, for his 14th double-double of the season and 37th of his career.
Player(s) of the Game: The Forwards. McCrea is the leading scorer and record holder on the day, but Will Regan and Justin Moss were also exceptional today, especially in the second half. The trio combined for 58 points and 21 rebounds in just 66 combined minutes.
UB next takes on Ohio in the Convocation Center on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM. Ohio is playing Akron today and can move UB into sole possession of first in the MAC East with a victory over the Zips, but the Bobcats are in the picture for a tournament bye themselves.