Watson came up big in his final collegiate game but it wasn’t enough. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Javon McCrea and Tony Watson combined to score 43 points but the Bulls were unable to contain Flashes big man Chris Evans as he scored 25 points, helping Kent State defeat Buffalo 70-68 in a heartbreaker Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
After a sluggish start to the game, the Bulls started to get their offense going late in the first half.
Back-to-back three’s by Tony Watson gave Buffalo a 24-21 lead and was extended to 29-21 before the Bulls entered halftime up 32-30.
Buffalo’s first half momentum carried into the second half. After a statistically poor first half by Will Regan, the sophomore forward started the second half by scoring six consecutive points to give the Bulls a 38-30 lead.
But once again, Buffalo was never able to extent the lead into double-digits.
Each opportunity it looked like the Bulls could pull away, Kent State came back flying with a mini run of their own.
After the Flashes slowly trimmed Buffalo’s lead, they finally took the lead for the first time in the second half on a Darren Goodson free throw with 9:38 remaining to go ahead 50-49.
Both teams continued to battle back and forth until Evans took control of the game for the Flashes.
The senior forward scored 10 points in the game’s final 5:22, becoming Kent State’s go-to man late in the contest.
With 1:21 left in the second half, Evans scored on an impressive drive to put the Flashes up 66-61, seemingly giving Kent State control of the game.
But that would not be the case as Auraum Nuiriankh responded with a three to get the Bulls within two with 57 seconds remaining.
Down two, Buffalo decided to try and get a defensive stop but was unable to as the Bulls ended up fouling Devareaux Manley with 21 seconds remaining. Manley went on to make both free throws, putting the Flashes up four.
Buffalo battled down to the wire and played one of their toughest games of the season but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“I thought it was a hard fought, tight contest,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “I think on our end we didn’t rebound the ball like we normally do. We took care of the ball, but there were a few possessions we’d like to have back.”
Witherspoon sees the Bulls finish below .500 for the first time since 2007-08. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
McCrea had another strong performance in the loss, scoring 20 points but the one Buffalo player that stood out the most on Thursday night was senior guard Tony Watson.
Watson stepped up large, scoring 23 points and bringing down 11 rebounds.
The senor leader was all over the court and kept making big plays when it counted.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, he just couldn’t make enough big plays as Kent State was more clutch when it mattered the most.
Chris Evans, who scored 10 of the Flashes last 14-points had one of his best games of the year, finishing with a monster double-double, scoring 25 points and bringing down 15 rebounds.
Fellow senior Randal Holt also came up large, scoring 17 while providing Kent State a great number two scoring option.
The loss ends the Bulls season in heartbreaking fashion once again as they see their final record dip below .500 for the first time since 2007-08.
Despite the losing record, Reggie Witherspoon was excited with how his team progressed during the season.
“I’m proud of the effort our guys have put out all season” said Witherspoon “Very few people when the conference season started thought we would be in this position but I’m proud of our guys.”
After the progress Buffalo has shown during the last half of the season, expectations will be raised going into McCrea’s last year with the Bulls.
Now, the only thing the Bulls can do is what all Buffalonians are way too accustomed to, wait till next year.
Feature photo courtesy of AP/Tony Dejak
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