March 9, 2006
CLEVELAND (AP) - Armon Gates made six 3-pointers, matched a career-high with 19 points and moved top-seeded Kent State into the Mid-American Conference semifinals with a 76-67 win over Buffalo on Thursday night.
The Golden Flashes (23-8), who last won the tourney title in 2002, opened the second half with a 10-0 run to go up by 18 but had to withstand a furious comeback by Buffalo.
The Bulls pulled within 69-65 on Calvin Cage's layup with 41.2 seconds left, but Kent State - now 21-0 this season when leading with five minutes left - made five of six free throws in the final 31 seconds.
Kent State's DeAndre Haynes, named the conference's player of the year earlier in the day, had an off night with just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. But the senior guard made four free throws in the final minute, and his steal and layup with 5.2 seconds remaining iced it.
On Friday, Kent State will meet the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal between Miami and Ohio. Toledo will play Akron in the other semifinal.
The last time Kent State was seeded No. 1, the Golden Flashes won the MAC title and made it to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Like that squad, this year's team has senior, tournament-tested experience.
However, it was Gates, a junior and only the club's seventh-leading scorer, who caused the most trouble for the Bulls (19-13). He fueled 13-0 and 9-0 spurts with four 3s in the first half as the Golden Flashes took a 35-27 halftime lead, then dropped two more 3s in the first two minutes of the second half.
The Bulls, who blew a 19-point lead and lost to Ohio in last year's championship, kept scrapping but couldn't come all the way back.
Jay Youngblood added 12 points and Kevin Warzynski, the MAC's sixth man of the year, had 11 for Kent State.
Yassin Idbihi led Buffalo with 16 points, while Cage and Roderick Middleton had 15 apiece.