March 11, 2011

Five keys to win over Bulls

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Kent State's 73-62 win over Buffalo in Thursday's quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland was a total team effort.

The Golden Flashes advanced to Friday night's semifinals, where they'll play Ball State, by taking care of the little things that added up to a win over the Bulls.

Here's a look at the five keys to victory:

1. Flashes stay in "Attack Mode"

Kent State came out of the starting gate in a full sprint and jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead. Rodriquez Sherman led the early charge with 13 of Kent's first 27 points.

"We came out in attack mode," Sherman said. "That was our thing. We tried to force the issue and stay aggressive. And we played great defense. We ran--we ran really well."

The Golden Flashes forced 18 Buffalo turnovers and committed only nine.

"Our whole thing was being in attack mode at both ends of the floor," head coach Geno Ford said. "We wanted ball pressure at all times. When you're not very big, which we're not, you have to make up for it somehow and our focus was to win the turnover battle. We had two turnovers at the half which is why we had the big lead."

2. McCrea couldn't do it alone

MAC Freshman of the Year Javon McCrea showed he deserved the award with a 28-point, 13-rebound explosion on 10-of-17 shooting. McCrea was dominant near the basket and wasn't much worse off of the dribble. Kent State focused on turning guards Byron Mulkey and Zach Filzen into non-factors and allowed McCrea to put up as many shots as he could, knowing one player couldn't bring the Bulls back from their early deficit. Mulkey and Filzen combined for only 10 points.

3. Kent State's Pit Bull gets it done

Guard Michael Porrini took a pounding inside while trying to guard McCrea. Porrini ended the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Porrini and McCrea are familiar with each other, as Porrini's earth-shattering dunk in a regular season meeting between the two teams came at the expense of McCrea.

4. Justin Greene shines

It's no secret that Kent State is most successful when its MAC Player of the Year has a big game. Greene totaled 16 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He also exerted more energy than usual trying to contain McCrea.

"That's Kent State defense right there," Greene said. "That's what we expect to do every night: get steals, get blocks and turnovers. We're a pesky group. We keep doing that I think we have a good chance."

5. Bulletin Board material

The KSU players and coaches were well aware of how dangerous many experts thought Buffalo and Ohio would be in the Flashes' half of the tournament bracket.

"Tonight we played as if we were the underdog," Greene said. "A lot of people told us we had a tough draw with Buffalo and we wanted to show were the No. 1 seed."

"[Buffalo is] really good at some things that we're maybe not quite as good at," Ford said. "I understood all the bad draw comments and questions I got all week and I kind of shoved it down our players' throats all week too and I think that kind of helped us. So, assist…media."

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