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After setback, nation’s best kept secret explodes for Buffalo

Buffalo was able to regroup from its last loss earlier this week. A big reason for that was senior guard JoAnna Smith who willed her team to victory. Smith was unstoppable as she dropped 31 points on Kent State in a Saturday afternoon showdown.

Buffalo Athletics

Buffalo, NY — Buffalo came out of the gates with an incredible tenacity Saturday afternoon, defeating MAC east rival, Kent State 77-62.

The Bulls gave no mercy in the first quarter, charging the court creating a comfortable lead thanks to Buffalo’s leading scorer JoAnna Smith. Smith was a horn in the back of the Kent State Golden Flashes, respectively scoring 5-of-6 field goals and posting up 12 points within the first.

“She is a very talented player,” said Kent State’s head coach Todd Starkey. “She got too many good looks on us and we didn’t make her shots difficult enough.”

Smith had a stellar performance and was the leading scorer of the match, creating a career high of 31 points. The moment Smith stepped on the court, she controlled the game, being aggressive when needed and graceful when necessary. She possessed incredible energy Saturday afternoon and clearly had no lingering effects of her previous outing against Toledo.

“What we did yesterday doesn’t matter,” said Smith. “What we have moving forward is what matters, when the lights come on, we go out and play the way coach Jacks wants us to.”

Smith finished the game scoring 13-of-21 field goals, four rebounds, two steals and one assist.

The Golden Flashes appeared to be nothing more than a dim light, creating no momentum, earning only eight points by the end of the opening period. Kent State’s leading scores, Jordan Korinek and Larissa Lurken, appeared to be extinguished. They created no fire and direction for their team, resulting in a field goal percentage of 21.4% in the first.

In the second, both teams were driving the ball up the court, but it was the Bulls that succeeded in finding the basket. Smith again, monopolizing her home court, glided through her opponents using her raw athleticism to prevail to the basket. Smith led the way, and her team followed consistently averaging more than 50% of their field goals.

As the period continued to play on, Buffalo saw its lead balloon to 23 points, which allowed head coach Felisha Lehetter-Jack to utilize her bench players earlier in the game. Courtney Wilkins had a strong performance, contributing 13 points to the Bulls’ final score. Lisa Ups dished out five assists and added three of her own points.

“Today is the first day that we played as a unit,” said coach Lehetter-Jack. “I don’t look at bench or starters, I look at one team, they know that to be true, we have great players, but only 5 can start. Who’s finishing, who is there during critical moments, that what’s important, ever second out there is important.”

As Buffalo and the Golden Flashes headed to intermission, the Bulls were shooting 50% from the field (15-of-30), had pulled down 20 rebounds, had nine fast break points and stolen six possessions away from Kent State. Buffalo held the lead, 39-23.

In the beginning of the third, the Bulls continued to dictate the game, refusing to allow Kent State gather much momentum. Buffalo did not stop moving the ball as they utilized quick passes and the talent of each member on the court to hold onto the lead.

Similar to the first two periods, the Bulls were shooting a higher percentage at 48.8%, as compared to the Golden Flashes’ 31.4% from the field.

A big advantage for the Bulls was the return off starter Stephanie Reid who spent majority of the first half on the bench after picking up two fouls. Her speed and strength allowed her to weave within her opposition and find teammates like Smith to help advance the score. Reid would go on to finish the game with 12 points, five assists, one block and one steel.

Finally, Kent State got a good lift from its top scorer, Larissa Lurken, who was able to find some room to breath and gained most of her points in the third. By the end of the third, she had scored 13 of the Golden Flashes’ 18 points in the quarter. Lurken carried her momentum into the final stanza, as she finished with 21 points, 21 points, six rebounds, 3 assists, two steels and one block.

Despite Lurken heating up for Kent State, the fans in Alumni Area still had a lot to cheer for at the beginning of the fourth, as the home team held onto its, 19-point lead, 60-41. That lead would slowly start to dissipate though as Kent State refused to be smothered and for the first time was within 10 points of the Bulls.

As if right on cue, Smith responded for Buffalo with a steal that resulted in a layup for her -- once again showing Kent State exactly whose house they were in. Any time the Golden Flashes found momentum, the Bulls would shut it down.

An incredible block by Summer Hemphill had ricocheted the ball into Smith’s hands where she once again found the basket scoring the last point of the match and defeating Kent state, 77-62.

The Bulls over record now sits at 16-6. Buffalo has a nice break and are back in action Saturday, Feb. 11 at Alumni Arena as they take on Northern Illinois.

Kent State’s record is now 12-11 and they will be back on the court Wednesday, Feb. 8, as they look to bounce back against Eastern Michigan University.