January 23, 2011

Flashes thump Miami

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A crippling pregame scratch and a shooting clinic led Kent State to a 78-57
win over Miami on Sunday, positioning the Golden Flashes in a tie atop the
MAC East standings at 3-2 in conference play.

The pregame scratch was Mid-American Conference Player of the Year candidate Julian Mavunga, who sat out Sunday's game with a foot injury.

It was Kent State sophomore Randal Holt that conducted the shooting
clinic. Holt hit six of eight 3-point attempts and poured in a career-high
22 points.

Holt seemed to be trapped in a season-long shooting slump littered with games
that saw him shooting 1-of-5 or 2-of-8 from the field while averaging just
seven points per game.

Over the last six games, Holt had been quietly heating up, averaging 12 points
a game over that span. On Sunday, he hit his boiling point with 21.

"At some point, I just relaxed, cleared my head and played the game
I love," Holt said. "Confidence comes from my coaches and teammates
having faith in me and always staying together as a family and egging each
other on."

"[Holt]'s playing with confidence," said Kent State head
coach Geno Ford. "I don't know what you need first, make
shots to get confidence or confidence to make the shot, but they go hand-in-hand."

The loss of Mavunga's 13.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game drastically
changed the complexity of the game.

Miami had to play around the perimeter without Mavunga's presence inside,
and KSU freshman Mark Henniger got the starting nod to defend Nick Winbush and his 3-point shooting. Winbush scored 15 points but hit only
one 3-point attempt.

"When we were without Guyton, we still had to play, so [Mavunga being
out] doesn't diminish the win," Ford said. "We're not
unrealistic, [however], I know how good a team that is with Mavunga."

Miami head coach Charlie Coles said even had Mavunga played, it wouldn't
have mattered with how poorly his guards played.

Point guard Michael Porrini practically rendered Miami's second-leading
scorer, Antonio Ballard, useless.

"[Porrini] is so strong it's pitiful. He took Ballard out of the
game today," Coles said. "I heard he was strong but being out there
watching him--you don't take Ballard out of games like that"

Ballard was held to only five points while Porrini scored 9 to go along with
five assists and three steals.

The Golden Flashes as a team forced 14 steals with five coming from Eric Gaines, most of those coming in a 15-0 run in the first half that broke
the game wide open.

By forcing Miami to rushing on offense, KSU forced turnovers on eight straight
possessions and scored on seven of them.

"That was our motto coming into the game, to have a sense of urgency
on the defensive end," guard Rodriquez Sherman said. "We
tried to speed them up and fed off of Gaines' defensive energy and kept

"The only thing we talked to our players about was to play to get tired,
no pacing ourselves," Ford said.

In his first return home since having all the grand theft charges dropped
against him, guard Carlton Guyton finished his night with 12 points
and five assists, and has seamlessly slid back into the groove in Ford's

The only negative angle lies with Justin Greene's 4-of-11 shooting
night, another subpar performance albeit not a terrible game by any means.

Greene's "bad" game totaled nine points, nine rebounds,
three assists and a block-that's a solid game for almost anyone
else in the league.

"I don't think there's denying the fact that he's
capable of being more productive, and I think he feels the same way. He's
such a focal point of opposing team's defenses, when he catches the ball
it's like a convention in the lane," Ford said. "He's
just grinding his way through it."

At 3-2 in MAC play, the Golden Flashes are now in a four-way tie for first
place in the East Division standings with Buffalo, Bowling Green and Miami.

Kent State hits the road on Thursday to play Ball State, who at 5-0 is the
only undefeated team left in the conference.

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