Kent State made a few more plays than host Fairfield on Sunday in a 72-68 win over the Stags in a National Invitation Tournament second round game.
"I thought it was just a battle of wills and we were able to make some plays to get us a lead we could nurse to the wire," said Kent State head coach Geno Ford. "Pretty even teams, pretty even teams."
With the win, Kent State advances to the quarterfinals and will play at No. 1 seed Colorado on Tuesday.
The Golden Flashes and Stags are nearly identical in how they ran the floor, pushed the tempo and both denied the other of entry passes into the paint.
Kent State forward and Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Justin Greene was held scoreless for the first 11 minutes of the game and finished with only eight points, just over half his season average.
Greene was swallowed up every time he touched the ball, a couple times being surrounded by three defenders. He often was forced to kick the ball back out, where guard Randal Holt took full advantage with a game-high 22 points, including the Golden Flashes first eight of the game, on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor and 4-of-7 from 3-point range.
"I was just trying to come out and take good shots--not bad shots or rushed shots," Holt said. "If I can knock 'em down I knock 'em down, get some confidence and run with it."
Holt's counterpart on the defensive side of the ball, Derek Needham, scorched the Flashes for 18 points in the first half but lost the heat in the second, shooting just 1-of-8 from the field to end his day with 20.
With Needham cooled, Kent State was able to keep Fairfield at arms length over the final 20 minutes, and senior Rodriquez Sherman added an exclamation point to the victory.
Leading 64-58 with 4:27 left, Sherman crossed up Needham, drove to his right and threw down a dunk over forward Ryan Olander, a seven-footer.
The Stags would pull within two, but Greene responded with a lay-up and the Golden Flashes shot well from the free throw line down the stretch, something they couldn't do during last weekend's MAC championship game against Akron, and finished 4-of-5 from the line to ice the game.
Guard Michael Porrini scored 11 points, dished out four assists and stole two passes, but left the game late in the second half and never returned.
Carlton Guyton scored 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. Justin Manns totaled 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Sherman's vicious dunk represented 40-percent of his scoring output. Greene, along with his eight points, added eight rebounds.
Kent State is the first MAC team to reach the Elite Eight of the NIT since Ball State did it in 2002.
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