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PREVIEW: Bulls look to shake off recent rust with matchup against Kent State

NCAA Basketball: Miami (OH) at Buffalo Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bulls are coming off just their second loss of the season. While losing is never a “good” thing, one loss can normally focus a team back up. I remember Nate Oats saying something along the lines of losing is better than winning sometimes because you see the areas you are weak in and correct those flaws. I believe the Bulls will do just that and come out with a fire against Kent State—a game that is usually filled with emotion anyways.

The Golden Flashes come in to this game with a record of 15-4 (4-2) and look to be the second straight MAC team to take down the Bulls. Led by senior and former Nate Oats player Jaylin Walker, Kent State is not a team Buffalo should be taking lightly.

Every single game between these two schools seems to have a heightened intensity. Whether it was Jimmy Hall, Adonis De La Rosa, or Walker himself, the Golden Flashes like to irritate the Bulls. Most often, they seem to try and mentally shake Nick Perkins, who was ejected in last years contest at Kent. It will be crucial for Perkins to keep his head and show his leadership and growth tonight, as he’s a catalyst for the Bulls success. Let’s take a look at what else we should be watching for in this game.

What to Watch For

Dontay Caruthers and Davonta Jordan

If you’ve watched any UB basketball for the past three seasons, you know this defensive duo is one of the best in the nation. However, both struggled in the NIU whistle-fest with Caruthers unable to find his shot and Jordan fouling out. Look for both players to be a little extra aggressive, especially on Walker. I expect bounce-back games from the pair who will keep showing Oats’ blue collar mentality.

Three Point Shooting

While the Bulls actually shot around average in total from deep last game, they were never able to string their makes together. One of the staples of this team is that they go on quick 8-0 to 12-0 runs with dangerous shooting and fast-break points. They’ll need to shoot much better from deep and use that to create space inside, otherwise Kent will try and pack it in to avoid the dribble drive the Bulls are known for.

CJ Massinburg

This one is obvious, but eyou should be watching Massinburg every game. His leadership will have a big test tonight as he tries to get this team back to their dominant ways. It starts with his shooting and driving, but will be noticed more in his rebounding. When Massinburg is attacking rebounds, he shows how versatile he is and how there is nobody on this team above doing the small things. The other reason you should watch him is because you and I need to appreciate what little time we have left watching possibly the best Buffalo Bulls’ men’s basketball player ever. Believe it or not, it’s almost February and by the end of March, we will not be blessed with CJ Buckets any longer. So appreciate greatness while you are watching it, because we may never see a Mr. Buckets again.

Final Thoughts

I believe this game will come down to the middle twenty minutes as most UB games do. Slow starts are not uncommon for this team, especially when on a road trip. I think the seniors will need to step up big and Buffalo needs to be locked in on this game, not with a ranking or anything else. If everyone does their job, then you will see the Bulls victorious at Kent State. A loss will make me uncomfortable, but still not going full nuclear. I just don’t see this team losing back-to-back. My final score is 87-72, Bulls win. Remember to enjoy the game and breathe, it may be a roller coaster but that’s just basketball.