Kent State took the role of hottest team in the Mid-American Conference away from the University at Buffalo Tuesday night.
The Golden Flashes snapped UB’s six-game winning streak by controlling the tempo and playing tough inside in scoring a 77-69 decision at Alumni Arena.
The win was the fourth straight and seventh in the last 10 games for Kent State, which now is looking like a serious challenger for the MAC Tournament. Kent State upset first-place Akron Saturday, snapping the Zips’ 30-game home-court winning streak.
UB dropped into a tie for third place with Ball State at 9-6. Akron (12-3), which lost to Bowling Green Tuesday, is first and Ohio (10-5) second. The top four teams get a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
Kent State moved into a tie with Western Michigan for fifth at 8-7.
UB currently has the tie-breaker edge over Western Michigan but not Kent State. The Bulls might have to win two of their final three games to secure a top-four finish.
Kent State’s star forward, 6-foot-8 Jimmy Hall, scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead his team.
UB coach Nate Oats said his team’s problems started with energy.
“I thought they played harder,” Oats said. “They played with an edge. In the second half, they outrebounded us, 25-16. We told them rebounds were going to be a big deal. We gave up too many offensive boards in the second half.”
“We lost our edge a little bit, to be honest,” Oats said. “We didn’t play that great Saturday, either. I told our guys that we were headed in the wrong direction Saturday. . . . Guys get complacent when you start winning, I think.”
UB forced 19 turnovers in beating Kent State, 82-69, on Jan. 17.
This time Kent State made only 11 turnovers. UB was forced into a slower-paced game and couldn’t get into transition enough.
“That was the biggest thing,” said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff, whose team made only five turnovers in the win at Akron. “We just played 80 minutes against two good teams on the road and we’ve had 16 turnovers combined.”
UB got 22 points from Blake Hamilton and 14 from C.J. Massinburg. They were able to drive to the basket for scores. But Kent State did a good job defending UB’s half-court offense.
“The ball didn’t move great,” Oats said. “Eleven assists, 14 turnovers. Our offense was real stagnant. We’re back to too much one-on-one.”
“We’re pretty good in the half court when we give ourselves a chance to defend there,” Senderoff said.
The win also snapped UB’s seven-game win streak against Kent State.
“It means a lot,” Hall said. “It’s my senior year, coming out here and getting a win. I thank my guys and everybody for sticking together. It’s a big win.”
“He’s good,” Oats said. “He shot 9 of 14. He’s real efficient. I don’t think our bigs did as good a job as I hoped they would. I thought we’d be able to guard him a little bit better, not let him touch it as much.”
A crowd of 3,212 saw Kent State use a 9-2 run to break away from a 49-49 tie with 10 minutes left. UB never got within five the last five minutes. Kent sophomore guard Jaylin Walker scored 22.
UB’s game at 8 p.m. Friday against Akron at Alumni Arena (CBS Sports Network) is a rematch of last year’s MAC title game. The Bulls lost at Akron, 91-90, on Jan. 28.