No bull: Buffalo is for real

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Even though his Kent State men's basketball squad currently finds itself sitting atop the Mid-American Conference East Division standings after winning seven of its last eight contests, Stan Heath still has his share of concerns. And No. 1 on his worry list is tonight's foe, Buffalo. The Bulls (9-8, 4-3 MAC), who have already earned more victories this season than in the last two years combined, will ride a newfound wave of confidence into the M.A.C. Center for tonight's 7 p.m. clash. They've earned the MAC's most improved moniker by upsetting the Golden Flashes Jan. 9 in Buffalo then shocking Marshall last Saturday in Huntington, W.V. "Buffalo is no fluke," said a wide-eyed Heath. "They're a very good team with a lot of talent, and Reggie (third-year coach Reggie Witherspoon) has them believing in each other." The Bulls made believers out of Heath and company after nipping Kent State 66-65 in Buffalo. Darcel Williams, a 6-foot-6 senior forward, produced 20 points and 18 rebounds in that contest, while senior guard Louis Campbell piled up 18 points and scored the game-winning basket in the closing seconds. The Kent State game proved to be Williams' coming out party. The transfer from Eastern Kentucky has averaged 21.3 points and 11.8 boards in his last four contests, and now leads the Bulls in scoring (17.5 ppg) and rebounding (9 rpg). "Williams presents a lot of problems, and Campbell made several big plays down the stretch against us," said Heath. "We did not do a good job of playing transition defense against them in the first game, and they made us pay. They're very athletic. This is a major test for our team." As if the resurgent Bulls don't pose enough problems, Heath also has an in-house dilemma on his hands. Trevor Huffman, Kent State's star senior point guard, has struggled immensely after pouring in 53 points in his first two MAC contests. Since burying a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to defeat Marshall on Jan. 5, Huffman has shot 26 percent from the field (11-of-42), 16 percent from 3-point range (4-of-25) and 67 percent from the free-throw line (10-of-15) while averaging just nine points per game in his last four outings. Huffman (15.5 points per game, 38 percent field goals, 31 percent 3-pointers on the year) scored a season-low six points in last Saturday's victory over Western Michigan, and didn't exude his typical energy and explosiveness on the offensive end. "Trevor's working hard and he's getting good looks. That's the important thing," said Heath. "His stats are actually about the same now as they were at this point last year, he's just not getting to the free-throw line as much. The one thing he tells me when I ask him why he isn't driving more is that he's getting shots he knows he can make. "Those shots are going to start falling. I think Trevor will be fine." Junior forward Antonio Gates and senior shooting guard Andrew Mitchell have picked up the scoring slack during Huffman's cold streak. Gates has been a model of consistency, producing at least 14 points and five rebounds in every MAC game thus far, and now leads the Flashes in scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg). Mitchell (14.4 ppg) has also been hot of late, averaging 17.4 points over the past five games. "Antonio is a difficult matchup for teams," said Heath. "He's shooting well, and I also thought he was able to score consistently on the block for the first time last Saturday. Andrew has stepped up, in part because Trevor's getting so much attention, and our bench has also been giving us excellent production. "Not everything has gone smoothly, but it never does. Overall, we're pretty pleased to be where we are heading into (tonight's) game." Note: The starting time for Saturday's battle between Kent State and host Bowling Green has been changed to accommodate television. Tipoff is now scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised live on Fox Sports Ohio. __ E-mail: amoff@recordpub.net Phone: (330) 678-5460

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