In a battle for the two seed in next week’s Mid-American Conference tournament, Kent State men’s basketball played hard but could not keep up with the University at Buffalo’s rapid offense.
Kent State (15-7, 12-6 MAC) lost the game 81-67, giving Buffalo (14-7, 12-5 MAC) the two seed and seeing the Flashes finish fourth in the conference.
Senior forwards Justyn Hamilton and Danny Pippen both did not play, leaving Kent State without much of its production.
The pair of big men was sorely missed, as Buffalo out rebounded Kent State 43-30.
Senior forward Tervell Beck stepped up in the absence of his two teammates, scoring a team-high 19 points and adding a pair of rebounds.
Both of the Flashes’ top guards played their usual minutes, as sophomore Giovanni Santiago and junior Malique Jacobs tried to operate an offense with totally different pieces.
Jacobs played with energy, harassing Buffalo all night for a game-high five steals. He also had 16 points, six rebounds and four assists while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Santiago was missing his usual targets, but did not struggle to deal the ball as he had a team-high seven assists. The sophomore scored 13 points of his own and had four rebounds.
The Buffalo offense was very efficient as the Bulls had 19 assists and shot just a hair under 50 percent from the field.
Forward Jeenathan Williams led Buffalo with 21 points on 72.9 percent shooting. He was the only player on either team to break 20 points.
Sophomore forward Evan Bainbridge filled in well for Hamilton and Pippen, seeing his most meaningful minutes since the end of last season.
The Stow native had not played more than nine minutes in a game this season, but tonight played 34 and finished with season-highs of seven points and six rebounds.
Entering the MAC quarterfinals on a loss, the Flashes are slated to face Ohio University in the first round in Cleveland. Kent was supposed to play the Bobcats this Tuesday, but the game was cancelled due to COVID-19 roster issues on Ohio’s side.
Ohio’s game today against Bowling Green State University was also cancelled for the same reason, and it is unclear if the Bobcats will be cleared to play in the tournament.
If the game goes ahead, Kent State will take on OU at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on March 11.
Owen MacMillan is a sports editor. Contact him at email@example.com.