February 27, 2011

Flashes come up short in battle with Bobcats

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KENT--The big story stemming from Kent State's 88-87 overtime loss at
home to Ohio on Saturday is that the Golden Flashes lost sole possession of
first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division with two games left
to play.

Despite the loss, the Flashes made a lasting impression by battling until
the end, despite playing through a recent four-game, 3,000-mile road trip.

They battled despite this being their fifth game in only 11 days, right in
the midst of a cutthroat race down the stretch for the division crown.

Down by over 20 at one point, it would have been so easy to lay down, to give
way to weary legs and minds and convince themselves, 'OK, we'll
regroup for the next one--it's fine.'

Lying down isn't a part of the definition of "Kent State basketball," as
forward Justin Greene and guard Rodriquez Sherman have referred
to their brand of basketball all season.

"We did a good job of fighting back. We took pride in 'Kent State
basketball,'" Sherman said. "[Playing all these games] is
a lot. Everybody's feeling it, they're still feeling it. It's
tough, but we have to suck it up. If we want to win a championship, we have
to suck it up."

That's the positive side; the negative side is the Golden Flashes couldn't
do anything right for the first 25 minutes of the game. They were late on rotations,
took bad shots, were beat in transition and missed free throws.

Head coach Geno Ford didn't have kind words for his team for allowing
a 21-point deficit at home.

That's not in the definition of "Kent State basketball" either.

"I give [Ohio] credit, but we played soft, we played tentative, we played
disinterested," Ford said. "For 25 minutes, that was the most pathetic
performance I've ever been a part of as a head or assistant coach, which
isn't acceptable.

"To be down [21] at home, I don't care if we're playing
Duke, that's not OK. [Ohio] played well, but we were downright pathetic
for 25 minutes in every way, shape and form."

For those 25 minutes, Kent State was reduced to a downtrodden, tired team
with tired legs and tired arms.

But then, Greene hit a couple of baskets, Sherman and freshman Darius Leonard hit 3-point shots and Eric Gaines brought down a rebound
and took it the length of the floor for an easy layup.

Now down only 10 and with an electric crowd of more than 5,000 people, a new
team was born.

Down 61-54, Guyton drilled a 3-pointer from the left elbow, and one the next
possession made Ohio's D.J. Cooper look foolish with a crossover move
that led to an and-1 opportunity that Guyton converted to bring KSU within

With this, Guyton nearly pushed the crowd, in disbelief, over the edge.

Ninety seconds later, Gaines did.

Still down one, guard Michael Porrini stole the ball near the top
of the key and threw it ahead to a streaking Gaines who threw down a ferocious
tomahawk dunk to give Kent State its first lead of the game with seven minutes

Behind Greene, Sherman and Guyton, the Golden Flashes remained in a deadlock
at 77-all with only a minute to play. Ohio had possession, but KSU was in position
to have the last shot.

After winding the shot clock down, Cooper attempted a 3-pointer from the top
of the key that clanked off the rim and right in the hands of guard Nick Kellogg,
who then called timeout with 23.1 seconds remaining.

Cooper tried to again find an open shot but had to hoist a 3-pointer from
over 25-feet out that again missed as time expired.

In the overtime, the Golden Flashes jumped out to a quick 5-point lead behind
a Sherman layup from and a Porrini 3-pointer.

Kent State had a chance to close out the game, but as a team they hit only
3-of-6 free throws the rest of the way which opened the door for Ohio with
42.4 seconds left, down by one.

With 14.7 seconds left, DeVaughn Washington drove the lane and flipped in
the go-ahead basket.

Kent State actually defended the play too well.

"The play wasn't even drawn up for me," Washington said. "They
did a good job of blowing up the play. I saw they had blown it up and [thought]
it was time to make a play."

At the other end, Ford drew up a play where Guyton would drive and then kick
it out to an open teammate. He was forced to give it up to Porrini at the top
of the key, who almost lost the ball as he drove to his left and had to put
up an off-balance shot that missed.

"We blew a great opportunity in a home game with a great crowd, great
atmosphere. And we stunk the place up for 25 minutes," Ford said.

Sherman led all scorers with 21 points. Greene finished the night with 19
points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Guyton added 18 points.

Ohio's Washington scored 20 points to along with six rebounds and three
blocks. Cooper scored 10 points and dished out 14 assists.

This loss leaves Kent State in a tie for first with Miami in the East, but
the RedHawks own the tiebreaker advantage.

In a recent rule change that doesn't even appear in the preseason media
guides, the tiebreaker--after head-to-head record--is no more the best winning
percentage against the next best MAC opponent, top to bottom, regardless of

It is now the better record against the division as a whole.

Miami currently has one less loss against the East, which means Kent State
now needs help to repeat as champions.

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