The Carthage College men's basketball team (6-4, 0-0 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin) opened play at the Buffalo State College "Athletic Connections Orlando Holiday Classic" on Friday, Dec. 20 with a 67-65 loss to Buffalo State (5-3) at the Orlando Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando, Fla. Carthage saw an 11-point second-half lead disappear in the final minutes of the Buffalo State game.
In Friday's first game, No. 39 North Central College (7-2) got by No. 22 Eastern Connecticut State University (7-2), 70-69, in overtime. On Saturday, Dec. 21, the Red Men take on Eastern Connecticut (7-2) at 2 p.m., EST, with Buffalo State (5-3) playing North Central (Ill., 7-2) at 4 p.m., EST.
Buffalo State opened a six-point lead midway thru the first half, 17-11, at 11:49. Carthage went up, 18-17, at 9:54, but a 10-2 Bengals run gave Buffalo State a seven-point lead, 27-20, at 5:33. Back-to-back three-pointers by Donte Logan and Kevin Sykes Jr. cut the lead to one, 27-26, at 4:18. Buffalo State led by three points at the break, 31-28.
The Red Men tied the game, 31-31, at the start of the second period, but the Bengals opened up a 38-31 edge at 18:42. Carthage stormed back with a 16-0 run, aided by a pair of Malcom Kelly three-pointers and five points from Marlon Senior, and the Red Men took a 47-38 lead at 12:58. Carthage led by as much as 11 points in the second half, 56-45, at 8:25, but Buffalo State came back with a 20-7 run to take a two-point lead, 65-63, with 37 seconds to go. Seven points by Justin Mitchell helped fuel that run.
Two free throws by Kevin Sykes Jr. with 22 seconds left tied the game, 65-65, but a jumper by the Bengals' Chris Thompson with four seconds on the clock gave Buffalo State a 67-65 edge. Sykes missed a wild three-point attempt with one second left.
The Red Men shot 41 percent (21-51), including seven-of-21 three-pointers, and the Bengals also shot 41 percent (30-73), including just two-of-15 from three-point range. Carthage got to the free-throw line 26 times and made 10, while Buffalo State hit five-of-10. The Red Men out-rebounded the Bengals, 41-39, but Carthage turned the ball over 28 times to 19 for Buffalo State.
Justin Mitchell led Buffalo State with a game-high 24 points on 11-of-19 field goals and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Chris Thompson had 14 points and 10 boards. Marlon Senior (Sr., Skokie, Ill./Niles North) led the Carthage effort with 14 points on five-of-nine shooting, along with eight rebounds. Kevin Sykes Jr. (Sr., Tinley Park, Ill./Frankfort—Lincoln-Way North) had 12 points on just two-of-10 field goals and six-of-eight free throws. Malcom Kelly (Sr., Kenosha, Wis./Reuther), making a start in only his second game this season, also scored 12 points on five-of-eight shooting, while Reese Herth (Jr., Morton Grove, Ill./Skokie-Niles West) came off the bench to add 10 points.
"Twenty-eight turnovers just isn't Carthage basketball," admitted Carthage coach Bosko Djurickovic, "and you have no chance to win with that many. "This one is on me—we had an 11 point lead in the second half. Give Buffalo State credit. They play very hard, and they press the way pressing teams are supposed to press. We didn't do a good job of breaking the press, and that's one me. Both Justin Mitchell and Chris Thompson were tough, tough matchups for us. It's disappointing, because every time we think we've turned a corner, we take a step back. If we're going to be a good team, and I firmly believe we will be, we have to eliminate those types of situations. We have a very difficult game tomorrow with Eastern Connecticut."