The energy the University at Buffalo had to start the season seems to be in short supply. Kent State made sure of it, surging in the second half to overtake the lethargic Bulls, 69-56, Wednesday night before 2,532 in Alumni Arena.
It was UB's second consecutive loss -- and five out of seven -- after a 6-2 start, this one against a rebuilding Kent State team that came in at .500. But the defending Mid-American Conference champions (8-7, 1-1) got UB's attention, holding the Bulls (8-7, 0-2) without a field goal for a nine-minute stretch in the second half and then pulling away at the end.
"We didn't come out with any energy or any effort," said senior Yassin Idbihi, the lone Bull in double figures with 17 points. "It's hard to put on the switch and say, 'Now we're down, now we have to play with energy.' We have to come out with energy the second we come out on the court."
Kent State certainly did. In the opening seconds, Haminn Quaintance stole a cross-court pass from Eric Moore then threw down a two-handed dunk. It was the first of a season-high 26 turnovers for the Bulls.
"It was a very ugly game and when you play like that, you don't deserve to win," said UB coach Reggie Witherspoon. "We have to learn how to play hard when things aren't going well. We're not tough enough right now, the kids aren't tough enough. When things aren't going well we need to play harder. Until that happens, in a conference like this, it's going to be some ugly nights."
It was especially hideous for Moore, who couldn't pop bubble gum against Kent State. The sophomore from New Jersey was just 2 of 15 from the floor and 2 of 6 from three-point range. He finished with seven points and five turnovers.
In Sunday's loss at Bowling Green, Moore had his best game as a collegian, pouring in a school-record 11 three-pointers and a career-high 35 points.
"He's a great shooter, if you let him get going, you're going to play catch up all night," said Kent State coach Jim Christian. "We emphasized early in the game to chase him hard and make him work."
That's part of Moore's growing process, Witherspoon said.
"If we're looking for a sophomore to run right through the conference, I don't know the last sophomore who did that," Witherspoon said. "There certainly hasn't been any sophomores since I've been here in this conference who just dominated and said, 'Move over everybody.' "
There was enough blame to go around because outside of Idbihi, who also had nine boards, no one was able to get it going.
After Kent State built a 10-point lead on a jam by Quaintance with 19:02 left, UB went on an 11-1 run capped by an Idbihi jump hook. After Vadim Fedotov made a layup off a pass from Calvin Betts with 10:36 left, the Bulls didn't make another field goal until Idbihi's layup with 1:02 left.
By that time, Kent State's lead swelled to 61-49 and the Golden Flashes began celebrating.
"We came to win the game," Christian said. "Everybody who stepped on the floor made key plays."
Kent State has beaten UB in their last four meetings and five of the last six.
The Bulls host Miami (Ohio) at 5 p.m. Sunday.