KENT, OH In college basketball, especially at this time of year, you can't put a price on senior leadership and Kent State's trio of senior leaders proved to be priceless in leading the Golden Flashes to a thrilling 77-71 overtime win over Buffalo before 3,194 fans at the MAC Center.
Julian Sullinger recorded a double-double / Photo courtesy Kent State
The Flashes were led to victory by seniors Al Fisher, Julian Sullinger and Jordan Mincy with all three players scoring in double digits. The win ended a two-game losing streak for Kent State (17-13,9-6) after suffering heartbreaking losses at Bowling Green and Miami.
The loss for Buffalo (18-10,10-5) coupled with Bowling Greens defeat at Miami and Akrons home win over Ohio forged a four-way tie atop the MAC East Division with one set of games remaining on Sunday.
We beat a very good basketball team. Thats the best team we have beaten all year, Kent State head coach Geno Ford said after the game.
They manhandled us the entire 45 minutesWe made just enough plays to win, but thats a really good basketball team and they could have easily won the game Ford added.
With the Bulls leading 67-65 at the 1:27 mark on a free throw by Greg Gamble, Kent State had two chances to score.
The second of those opportunities was a three-point attempt by Tyree Evan whose missed effort was rebounded by teammate Chris Singletary who was then promptly fouled by Buffalo's Calvin Betts.
Singletary made both free throws to tie the game 67-67, sending the contest into overtime.
In the extra five minutes, Fishers jumper gave the Flashes a 69-67 lead and they never looked back.
The lead grew to as much as six in the final moments 75-69 on two Fisher free throws before the Flashes settled for the 77-71 victory and thus split the season series between the two schools with Buffalo having won the first game 64-53 on January 21.
Fisher, in his final days as the reigning MAC Player of the Year, scored 15 points. Nine of which came in overtime.
Mincy added 13 points and Sullinger contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Julian (Sullinger) rebounded better than any game all year Jordan (Mincy) has been playing well for quite a whileAl (Fisher) struggled through most of the night and when it was crunch time he mad a couple of monsterous plays including the game winner, noted Ford.
Singletar, led Kent State with 19 points before fouling out midway through the extra five minute session.
Greg Gamble led four Bulls players in double figures with 17 points while Rodney Pierce added 16.
Kent State played a great game. We had too many turnovers, too many missed free throws, gave up too many offensive rebounds and I think that was the difference in the game, Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon remarked afterwards.
The game started out strong with the lead changing hands seven times within the first seven minutes.
With Buffalo leading 15-14 at the 13:19 mark on a three-pointer by Pierce, Kent State went on a 15-3 run to open an 11-point advantage 29-18 on a jumper by Anthony Simpson.
The Flashes' largest lead of the half was 14 points when they built a 34-20 advantage at the 4:51 mark after a conventional three-point play by Simpson.
But the Bulls scored the last nine points of the period to trail by only five at halftime 36-31.
Both teams shot well over 50 percent for most of the first half before cooling off before intermission.
At the start of the second half, Kent States lead fluctuated between one and four points.
The Bulls however were frequently their own worst enemy. When Buffalo had a chance to tie or take the lead, it would miss a shot, commit a turnover, or a personal foul until Anthony Robinson connected on a three pointer at the 10:40 mark to knot the game at 51-51.
Kent State would push its lead back out to three on two occasions, but the Bulls would not go away, using a 6-2 spurt to gain their first lead since midway through the first half, pulling ahead 62-61on a three by Pierce with 5:32 remaining in the second half.
After the Flashes tied the game 62-62 on a Mincy free throw, Andy Robinson scored four consecutive points to give the Bulls their largest lead at 66-62 with 4:00 remaining.
Kent State had its chances to regain the lead and Buffalo also had its opportunities to extend the lead in the final moments.
After the two free throws by Singletary to tie the game, Buffalo had one final chance to win the game in regulation but a three-point attempt by Pierce failed.
They are a hard team to make shots against. They are the most physical team in the league. They are the biggest, strongest team in the league, Ford emphasized.
We were fortunate they didnt make all their free throws and they had 20 turnovers. If they did not do that we would have had a tough time winning.
The Bulls went just 14-for-27 from the free throw line in the game and their 20 turnovers were the third consecutive game with that number.
We have not shot (free throws) well enough and we missed too many today Witherspoon lamented.
Buffalo won the rebounding battle 47-43 and held Kent State to 7-for-27 from the field in the second half but still came away empty handed.
On the final Sunday of the regular season, Buffalo returns home to face Miami still with a chance of winning the East Division and a number one seed in the 2009 MAC tournament in Cleveland if Bowling Green loses at home to Ohio.
Kent State will have a say in the seeding process as the Flashes face arch rivals Akron.
NOTES: Game was the 26th in the all-time series with Kent State holding a decisive 22-4 record winning eight of the last nine Buffalo has never beaten Kent State at the MAC Center The overtime game was Kent States fifth of the season (3-2) while Buffalo played in their second (1-1) Jordan Mincy-KSU has played in 131 game for the Flashes tying him with Trevor Huffman & Andrew Mitchell for second on the all-time list in MAC history Mincy also tied Huffman and Mitchell for second place on Kent States all-time list Mincy has scored in double digits in four of his last five games Al Fisher-KSU has double digits in three of the last four games Calvin Betts-UB failed to score for the first time this season Greg Gamble-UB 17 points was a season MAC high for him Gamble has 102 assists on the season, the first Bulls player since Turner Battle to have 100 or more assists in a single-season Rodney Pierce-UB scored in double digits for the fifth straight game and seventh in the last eight ... UB head coach Reggie Witherspoon is 4-17 lifetime against Kent State Buffalo players are wearing a patch on their uniforms for the remainder of the season with the number 3407 which was the number of the Continental Airlines plane that crashed on February 12th in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center. According to UB Athletic Communications, There were 11 people with ties to the University who lost their lives in the crash.