Today was going to be a litmus test for the 8-5 (2-1) Buffalo Bulls. With 11-5 (3-0) Akron hosting Toledo, Ohio 12-4 (2-1) looking for an easy win at NIU and Kent State 11-5 (2-1) coming to town.
A loss would mean UB would be at worst 2 games back of the MAC East, at best a full game behind the top 3 teams in the MAC.
A loss would bring up questions about UB's ability to compete in the MAC this year, a bad loss would erase the "good" parts of the Toledo game.
But UB won by 11, and Akron lost to Toledo by 14 at home. Now the heartbreaking loss at Toledo looks less like a cause for concern and more like a blockbuster MAC Championship preview.
UB now sits atop the MAC East at 9-5 (3-1) tied with Akron and probably Ohio (after the NIU game).
It was over when: Up 1 with 14 minutes remaining, UB shot 66% from the field and 60% from beyond the arch over a 7.5 minute 20-8 run. The run was led by Will Regan who scored 10 of the 20 points, including two three-pointers. The 59-47 lead would hold until the end of the game.
Player of the Game: Will Regan, 25 points, shot 53% from the field and 50% on three point attempts. Will added 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and was 6 for 6 from the charity stripe.
McCrea Watch: Despite a quiet game, McCrea played effectively scoring 12 points, on 3 of 6 shooting and 6 of 7 on free throws. McCrea had 7 rebounds and as Kent focused on shutting the big man down, he showed great vision, tying for the team lead with 5 assists.
Both teams came out rusty, with sloppy play and easy buckets traded. Buffalo would have had a lead but the game stayed even as the Bulls were again betrayed by poor perimeter shooting.
Late in the 1st half, the MAC refs missed a few Kent travels and called some questionable offensive and defensive fouls on the Bulls that allowed the Flashes to get ahead to a 26-19 lead. Fortunately, turnovers and poor free throw shooting allowed UB to get back in the game, scoring on two McCrea free throws, a Shannon Evans 3-pointer and a Will Regan 3-point play to take a 1 point lead. Manley Devareaux hit a 3 to close out the first half scoring and give Kent a 29-27 halftime lead. Devareaux was 3 for 8 from behind the arch and led the Flashes with 17 points.
The second half picked up where the first left, with the two teams trading the lead until UB's long run put the game out of reach for the Flashes who never quite found a rhythm at Alumni Arena.
With the win, UB breaks a 4 game losing streak against Kent, improves to 5-10 against Kent in their last 15 meetings and 4-3 in their last 7 meetings at Alumni Arena.
UB's last loss at Alumni came March 5, 2013, the Bulls are riding a 9 game Alumni Arena winning streak.
Final Random Stat: UB has been at their best in the first 10 minutes of the 2nd half, out scoring opponents by 40 points in that time. Today the Bulls outscored Kent by 14 during that time.
The Bulls have been their worst from minute 10 to minute 5 of the first half, and in the final 5 minutes of the game, outscored by 21 points in those 10 minutes. Today the Bulls were outscored by 6 during those periods.
Next Game: Thursday January 23rd at Ball State at 8pm EST.