Randal Holt storms back to life, leads Kent State over Buffalo

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer Published:

BUFFALO -- Randal Holt's shooting slump is officially over.

Kent State's senior guard scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, and drained all five of his 3-point attempts while leading the Golden Flashes to an 80-68 victory over Buffalo (5-12, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) Wednesday night at Alumni Arena.

Holt had shot 24.5 percent from the field in the eight games before last Saturday's win at Ball State, when he scored a game-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. Kent State's lone returning starter used that effort as a springboard into his best game of the season on Wednesday.

Holt shot 7-of-12 from the field, hit all eight of his free throws, and added seven rebounds and a pair of assists while not committing a single turnover. He tied a career-high with 27 points first reached last January against rival Akron.

Fellow senior Chris Evans continued his stellar season, piling up 25 points, a career-high 14 rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks to help Kent State (11-6, 2-1) snap a four-game losing streak at Buffalo. The Flashes earned their second straight league road win after opening the MAC season with a disappointing home loss to Toledo, and are now 5-2 on the road this year.

"This win means a lot to me. I had never won here before," said Holt. "We've been playing better on the road for some reason. 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 younger players."

The Flashes won even though four players fouled out, starting forwards Mark Henniger and Darren Goodson along with reserve forward Melvin Tabb and swingman Bryson Pope. Kent State also let a double-digit lead slip away, just like it did last Saturday at Ball State, but dominated down the stretch once again to notch its second straight double-digit road triumph.

"This was a great team win that took a whole lot of effort," said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. "Our guys competed incredibly hard and had to overcome a ton of adversity throughout the game."

Bulls junior forward Javon McCrea scored a career-high 33 points, and kept his team close in the first half after the Flashes took an early 10-point lead. But after McCrea's layup with 8:52 left put Buffalo up 62-58, the Bulls did not make another shot from the floor -- missing all nine of their field-goal attempts from that point on.

"When they took a four-point lead with about nine minutes to go, a lot of times teams will have a hard time coming back from that on the road," said Senderoff. "But our kids kept fighting and fighting."

Holt tied the game at 62 with a 3-pointer from the corner, then Evans put the Flashes ahead when he grabbed a long rebound and went coast-to-coast for a dunk. The Bulls went ahead again at 66-64 after a pair of free throws by Xavier Ford, but sophomore sharp-shooter Devareaux Manley (10 points, 3 assists) put Kent State ahead to stay with a jumper and a 3-pointer.

Two free throws by McCrea brought the Bulls within four at 72-68 with just under two minutes to play, but Holt and Evans each went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch to seal the win as the Bulls went scoreless in the final 1:59.

Kent State forced 20 turnovers and held Buffalo to 33 percent shooting in the second half. The Bulls also hit just 3-of-22 3-pointers for the game.

Kent State will host rival Akron (12-4, 3-0) in a nationally televised game on Saturday at 3 p.m.

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