25th-ranked Bulls best Kent State in front of largest crowd in Alumni Arena history

A career night from Nick Perkins and a strong defensive effort push UB past the Golden Flashes

Jon Simon
February 23, 2019 - 12:22 am

Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig - USA TODAY Sports

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A record-breaking 6,688 fans were packed into Alumni Arena on Friday night to watch the 25th-ranked University at Buffalo men’s basketball team (24-3, 12-2) take on Kent State (19-8, 8-6). The final score wasn’t as eye-popping as Tuesday’s 114-67 win over Ohio, but the Bulls had another strong outing at home and defeated the Golden Flashes 80-57.

After starting 3-for-4 from the field, the UB offense wasn’t great for most of the first half. Bulls head coach Nate Oats said on Tuesday he’s been focusing a lot on defense. On Friday night, strong defense helped keep UB in the game despite the offense’s slow start. The Bulls’ put a lot of pressure on the ball and it resulted in five Kent State turnovers in the first 10 minutes. The Golden Flashes ended up turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, four of them being steals by UB. 

“[Pressuring the ball] is just what we do,” Oats said after the win. “I want guys on the ball, making sure we’re getting deflections and putting pressure on. Everything we do on defense is predicated with getting into and pressuring the ball.”

UB and Kent State both struggled to put points on the board through most of the first half. The Bulls started to pull ahead and were up 21-14 before a 9-2 run by the Golden Flashes knotted the score at 23-23 with 3:40 to go before halftime.

The Bulls started off 0-for-8 from three and finished 4-for-26 from behind the arc on Friday night, a disappointing showing after dropping a program-record 19 three-pointers on Tuesday. However, one of the biggest baskets of the night came when Nick Perkins hit the team’s first three with 1:15 to go in the first half, putting UB back in front 28-27.

Perkins’ three ended up being the start of a 10-0 UB run to end the first half, a run that also included back-to-back second chance baskets from Perkins and Jayvon Graves in the final 40 seconds.

Alumni Arena erupted after Graves’ threw down a put-back dunk off a missed three from CJ Massinburg with 16-seconds to go in the half. Following a drawn charge by Davonta Jordan with three seconds to go, Perkins banked in a three at the buzzer and the UB-faithful were quickly back on their feet to give the Bulls a standing ovation as they took a 35-27 lead into the locker room.

“When I hit that first [three-pointer], I definitely thought we were going to go on a roll, and it worked going into the half,” Perkins said post-game. “[The final minute of the first half] was pretty amazing. I like celebrating with my teammates and just seeing it all happen so quickly was fun.”

Perkins finished the night with a career-high 27 points, scoring 16 of them in the first half. The Bulls’ next closest scorer in the opening period was Massinburg with seven points. Perkins also turned in a strong effort on defense, pulling down six rebounds and tallying three steals.

The UB offense picked up right where they left off to start the second half. The Bulls also kept up the defensive intensity and pressure on the ball, forcing the Kent State offense to make more mistakes.

The Golden Flashes turned the ball over four times in the first 5:30 of the second half and committed 13 of their 24 total turnovers in the final 20 minutes. The UB offense made Kent State pay for giving up the ball so many times, the Bulls finished the night with 30 points off KSU turnovers.

“Everybody see’s how many points we put up and they think we’re an offensive team,” Oats commented. “And while we are, our offense is predicated on our defense. We’re always better in transition. So, when we’re getting transition baskets, we’re getting them off of stops on defense. We preach defense because if it’s good, it leads into our offense.”

Despite being out-played the entire second half, Kent State was able to hang around and stay within 10-16 points for a good part of the period. The Bulls finally began to pull away with about six minutes left after Antonio Williams, who led Kent State with 17 points, fouled out of the game after being called for a charge that was drawn by Davonta Jordan.

Jordan drew a total of four fouls on Friday night with two being charges. The junior guard rarely finishes in double figures, but he put up another strong stat line with eight points, a game-high eight assists, and seven rebounds. Jordan’s presence on the court made a huge impact at both ends of the floor and it showed, he finished the night with a team-high +31.

The Bulls extended their lead to as much as 24 in the final few minutes of the game. Massinburg scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half to go along with five rebounds, two assists and an impressive five steals. During the game the senior guard also moved into third place on UB’s all-time scoring list, he now has 1,835 points in his career with the Bulls.

With their win on Friday night and Bowling Green’s 92-87 loss to Ohio, UB has now moved back into first place in the Mid-American Conference East division and boast the conference’s best record of 12-2. The win also helped the Bulls secure a first-round bye at the MAC tournament next month in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Bulls' next game will be on Tuesday, February 26 at 7 p.m. when they host Akron at Alumni Arena. You can listen to the full game, along with pre-game and post-game coverage on ESPN 1520.

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