Freshman guard CJ Massinurg scored 21 points to lead the University at Buffalo to a critical 87-70 victory over Kent State Tuesday night.
The Bulls took a big step toward a top-four finish in the Mid-American Conference tournament. The top four teams in the MAC get a bye into the quarterfinals of the MAC playoffs in Cleveland in two weeks.
UB improved to 16-12 overall and 9-6 in the MAC. UB will be tied for third at worst in the MAC by the end of Tuesday’s play. Kent State dropped to 18-10 and 9-6. UB has the tie-breaker edge over Kent because it swept the season series between the teams.
The Bulls used a 27-9 run in the middle of the second half to take over the game. Massinburg score 10 points and freshman Nick Perkins scored nine during the run.
The game was a battle between UB’s speed and athleticism and Kent State’s size and power inside. Kent State could not keep up with the Bulls in transition, as UB raced down court for frequent open shots in the second half.
UB’s freshmen came up huge, combining for 45 points. Besides Massinburg, UB got 13 from Perkins and 11 from center Ikenna Smart.
Junior forward Blake Hamilton scored 15 for UB.
Kent State got 20 points from junior forward Jimmy Hall.
First half: UB took a 36-33 lead into intermission. Massinburg hit a corner three with a minute to go and Bearden fed Ikenna Smart for a Dunk with 15 seconds left to give UB the edge. Kent State ran its power offense well in the first half. The Golden Flashes got 13 of their 15 field goals within 5 feet of the basket.
Injuries: Kent State suffered some key injuries last month when guards Xavier Pollard and Jaylin Walker both were lost for the season due to foot problems. Pollard, a 6-4 senior, was Kent’s second-leading scorer (12.2 ppg) at the time. Walker was the team’s sixth man, averaging 7.8 ppg. The Golden Flashes lost four out of five games after the injuries but since have bounced back.
No trey: Neither team has relied much on the three-point shot this season. However, UB hit 10 three pointers in the game. Kent ranks 11th in threes made per game and has scored only 22 percent of its points behind the arc, lowest in the MAC. UB ranks eighth in threes made and scores 25.8 percent of its points behind the arc, ninth in the MAC.
In the house: Attendance was 3,284.
Up next: UB visits the hottest team in the MAC, Ohio, on Saturday. The Bulls lost to the Bobcats, 94-75, on Feb. 12.