Randal Holt tied a career high with 27 points and Kent State exorcised some demons with an 80-68 victory over the University at Buffalo on Wednesday night.
In his first three seasons with the Golden Flashes, Holt had never experienced the taste of victory in Buffalo. For the Kent State program as a whole the last win on the Bulls' home floor was back in 2008.
"This win means a lot to me," said Holt, who is one of only two four-year seniors on the Kent State roster, along with walk-one Brian Frank. "I had never won here before. And we got it playing through a whole lot of adversity with four guys fouling out. Even after all of that, we stepped up and made plays at the end."
Kent State led most of the night until a Buffalo run allowed the Bulls to take a four-point advantage into the final 9:29. After battling back to tie the game at 60, the Golden Flashes used a 14-2 run to seize control.
Devaraux Manley hit two threes during the deciding spurt, and Chris Evans made a series of key plays on both ends to highlight 25-point, 13-rebound night. And it all happened with starters Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger and key reserves Melvin Tabb and Bryson Pope all sitting on the bench with five fouls.
"When they took a four-point lead with about nine minutes to go, a lot of times teams will have hard time coming back from that on the road," said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. "But our kids kept fighting and fighting.
"It wasn't easy to handle the foul trouble. We needed young guys like Khaliq Spicer to play a lot of minutes because our two main post players were only able to play eight minutes each. We had to play Darren Goodson and Chris Evans out of position at the five (center). And while we didn't do a great job rebounding, we still were able to get key rebounds when we absolutely had to get them."
Kent State and Buffalo combined for 55 fouls and 74 foul shots. Buffalo stayed in the game despite 20 turnovers by converting 33-of-38 free throws. Kent State made 25-of-36 from the foul line.
Buffalo's Javon McCrea connected on all 15 of his free-throw attempts during a 33-point night. No other Bulls player finished in double figures. McCrea also grabbed 10 rebounds.
After losing to Toledo at home in the Mid-American Conference opener last week, Kent State has responded with back-to-back wins on the road to improve to 11-6 overall and 2-1 in conference play heading into Saturday's rivalry game with Akron at the M.A.C. Center.
"We've been playing better on the road for some reason," said Holt, who also finished with seven rebounds from his guard spot. "I think we've shown a lot of growth with these last two wins on the road. Guys are coming together and we are getting a lot of leadership from our seniors and from our young players."
Buffalo dropped to 5-12 overall and 0-3 in the conference.