January 27, 2008

Sherman sparks Kent State comeback victory

When Kent State hosted Western Michigan Sunday afternoon at the M.A.C. Center, the Golden Flashes hoped to avoid the lingering effects of Wednesday's emotional win over rival Akron. For nearly 33 minutes against the Broncos, the Golden Flashes struggled through the very fate they hoped to avoid. But, the Flashes managed to hold the Broncos to just 25.9-percent shooting in the second half-including a stretch of over seven minutes where the Broncos were held scoreless-and sophomore guard Rodriquez Sherman fueled a run that led the Golden Flashes to a 67-58 come-from-behind victory.

Sherman, who scored just two points in the first half, was knocked out of the game early in the second half when he caught an elbow to the face from teammate Mike Scott. Sherman returned to the game with just 13:30 remaining to play and Western Michigan holding a 48-38 lead. Seven minutes later, Sherman had scored eight points including a pair of free throws that tied the game at 50.

"My teammates encouraged me, told me not even worry about it, play through the pain," Sherman said about his performance after being injured. "I was dazed a little bit after that but I just knew we had to get the job done."

Though he scored 10 of his 12 points in the final 13 minutes of the game, Sherman's biggest contribution might have come in the form of the inspiration he provided for his teammates.

"I knew he was OK; I think that really fired us up," said Scott, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. "When he was on the sideline, I was like 'I got you Rod.' I felt like we had to win the game."

Western Michigan (10-9 overall, 4-2 in the Mid-American Conference) opened the contest with a run that would provide the Broncos a lead they held throughout most of the game. After senior forward Haminn Quaintance hit one of two free throws to give Kent State a 1-0 lead, the Broncos would go on a 10-0 run before Scott used a jumper to score the first field goal for the Golden Flashes with 14:47 left in the first half.

Scott said the intensity on Sunday wasn't anywhere near what it was earlier in the week when the Flashes beat Akron.

"It's clear everybody gets real riled up for Akron," he said. "It was clear this game that we didn't have the same intensity. Every single game is important, we have to get everybody to understand that."

Kent State's slow start, coupled with Western Michigan's hot shooters, put the Golden Flashes in a position where they had to play catch up throughout the game. Each time the Flashes got close-twice in the first half they tied the game or took the lead-Western would rally with a three-point play.

A three-pointer by junior guard Al Fisher tied the game at 19 with 6:06 left in the first half, but Shawntes Gary converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put Western back on top, 22-19. Moments later, a pair of Fisher free throws gave Kent State a 26-25 lead with 4:01 left; KSU's first lead since the opening moments of the game. That lead was short lived as Gary hit a three to put the Broncos back on top 28-26. Western took a 34-31 lead into the locker room.

The Broncos opened the second half with a David Kool three-pointer to push the lead to 37-31. That lead would eventually get to 10 before Sherman sparked the Flashes.

"It's just good to see him play," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian on the play of Sherman. "He's been playing better and better each game and playing through mistakes. That's what I want out of him. Today he rebounded and drove and passed very well. He just played a good overall game when we needed him to."

Sherman's free throws tied the game at 50, but they also started a Kent State run that pushed the Flashes out in front, 57-50. They sealed the win by hitting 13 of 17 free throws down the stretch. Kent State shot 41.7-percent from the floor in the game, but it was the defensive adjustments made at halftime that allowed Kent State to claw its way back into the contest.

"I thought it was a heck of a ballgame between a couple of teams that were coming off of emotional games," said Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins. "They came in and slugged it out. You have to give Kent credit for clamping down when they had to. Kent made a defensive adjustment-they started switching out to David Kool and took away the three-point shot. It made us go offensively dry for a little while."

That dry spell was all Sherman needed to get his team back in the game, even if he doesn't remember much of it.

"I forgot every play, honestly," Sherman said.

"That's not too far from the norm," Christian responded.

With the victory, the Golden Flashes improved to 16-4 overall and 5-1 in the MAC. Kent State returns to action Wednesday when they travel to Eastern Michigan to being a two-game road stretch. They'll play at Toledo on Saturday.

Game Notes:

  • After allowing Western Michigan to hit their first four three pointers in the second half, Kent State held the Broncos to 1-7 from behind the arc for the rest of the game
  • KSU held WMU scoreless from 9:21 to 2:20 left in the game. During that span, the Golden Flashes outscored the Broncos 13-0
  • Seven Rebounds and two blocks is a career-high for Fisher
  • Kent State has now won 12 straight at home against the current MAC West Division
  • Head Coach Jim Christian is 14-1 in his career at home against the MAC West
  • The Golden Flashes now have won eight straight at home against Western Michigan
  • KSU has now won 23 straight when allowing less than 60 points in a game
  • Kent State has outscored every Mid-American Conference opponent in the second half at home this year
  • The Golden Flashes have trailed three of their four MAC home games at halftime
  • With 12 home wins to begin the season, Kent State now matches the 2001-02 team with the most home wins to begin a season

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