KENT--Kent State head coach Geno Ford must be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Ford outfitted his team in its alternate black jerseys with gold trim the
night before Super Bowl Sunday and the Golden Flashes responded with a 66-53
win over Central Michigan at the MAC Center.
The Golden Flashes, like the Steelers, blitzed CMU early and often, forcing
17 turnovers from a team known for taking care of the ball. The Chippewas averaged
just 35.5 turnovers per game.
Fifteen minutes into the first half, the Chippewas had only mustered six points,
and after being held scoreless for a seven minute period, needed two technical
free throws resulting from a taunting foul called on Justin Manns following a put-back dunk to break the ice.
Like the Steelers, Kent State stuck with the "running game" and
often drove the lane rather than airing it out from the 3-point line. KSU finished
the night with 36 points in the paint while Rodriquez Sherman, Michael Porrini and Justin Greene all enjoyed success from inside.
And, like the Steelers, KSU's offense was ugly but it got the job done.
Kent State shot only 42.6-percent and 53.3-percent from the free-throw line;
unsightly numbers for a 13-point win.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known for taking his opponent's
best player out of the game--ironically enough, that's usually Cleveland
Browns wide receiver and Kent State alumni Josh Cribbs, who was inducted into
Kent State's Varsity K Hall Of Fame at halftime--just like the gold and
black in Pittsburgh, KSU followed suit.
CMU's most prolific scorer at 17.3 points per game, freshman standout
Trey Zeigler, was rendered a nonfactor by Porrini for nearly the entire game
and scored only 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
"Mike possesses a rare package of quickness, strength and energy level," Ford
said. "I've always said playing hard is a skill--some guys have
that, some guys coast, some bring it every day. You never have to question
Mike's energy level. He takes it personal when he's scored on."
Porrini shut down Ziegler and came away with four steals on he defensive end,
and contributed nine points and two assists on offense.
Parallel with the Steelers, who held a big lead over the New York Jets in
the AFC Championship Game and then watched the Jets claw their way back into
the game, the Golden Flashes did the same.
While Greene was forced to sit out with four fouls, the Chippewas cut KSU's
lead to 59-49 with 2:22 left.
Greene re-entered the game, hit a quick basket that was followed up with a
nail-in-the-coffin 3-pointer and ended the game.
"We need to close [teams] out at a high point. If we're up by
20, we want to close them out by at least 25-30," Sherman said. "We
allow teams to chip away or get lackadaisical for 2-3 minutes and say, 'Oh
the games [within] 10.' That wakes us up."
Sherman led Kent State's offense with 17 points, eight rebounds, two
assists and two steals.
Greene was only able to see the floor for 21 minutes with foul trouble, but
still finished the night with 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and
With Buffalo losing to Ball State and Bowling Green losing to Western Michigan,
this win puts Kent State in sole possession of first place atop the MAC East
"We've inched and clawed our way into first place by ourselves,
but we're not a team to be scared to death of," Ford said. "We've
got some work to do, but having almost a week before the game and a couple
of guys sick [Carlton Guyton, Eric Gaines and Porrini], we
aren't efficient [right now]."
The win was also the Flashes 500th in the MACC.
And, if the parallels keep popping up, Kent State winning on Saturday indicates
the Steelers will win the big game on Sunday night--place your bets.
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