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January 19, 2008Athens-- The last time Kent State wore its black jerseys the Flashes lost on a last second three-pointer at Detroit in the first game of the 2007-08 season. It didn't take nearly as long for the game to be decided Saturday night in Athens but the results were the same. Ohio defeated Kent State, 71-59, in front of 7,718 fans at the Convocation Center.
No, the jerseys didn't have anything to do with Ohio's victory, but Bert Whittington sure did. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior guard set career highs in points and three-pointers made. Whittington scored a game-high 26 points and hit on 5 of 9 three pointers?including four in the first 13 minutes of the game that allowed the Bobcats to take an early 26-16 lead.
"It was great to see a guy like Bert Whittington step up," said Ohio coach Tim O'Shea. "He got an opportunity and boy he made the most of it today I thought. I think Bert was huge. He had almost 50-percent of our points (in the first half). He really stepped up."
The Golden Flashes (14-4, 3-1 in the Mid-American Conference) jumped out to a 7-2 lead but from there the Bobcats used two Whittington three's and an and-one by Michael Allen to take a 8-7 lead and they never looked backed.
Kent State shot just 36.8-percent in the first half while the Bobcats, due in large part to Whittington's hot streak, shot 54.2-percent.
"It's hard when you play the way we did the first 20 minutes, we gave them so much confidence," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian. "You have to take your hat off to them, they came out and they worked harder than us for the first 20 minutes."
The Bobcats (11-6, 2-2) led 36-25 at the break and pushed the lead to as many as 15 in the second half before the Golden Flashes made a run with under four minutes left in the game.
Trailing, 59-48, with 3:26 remaining, junior guard Al Fisher drained a three followed up by a Rodriquez Sherman steal. Fisher missed a three but another Ohio turnover led to a dunk by senior forward Haminn Quaintance to pull the Flashes to within 59-53 with 2:21 to go.
Leon Williams hit one of two free throws for Ohio but sophomore guard Chris Singletary responded with a lay-up for Kent State to cut the lead to 60-55 with 1:54 to go. But, that's as close as the Flashes could get.
"We battled back and had a chance to get into the game and at that point we just couldn't get a big rebound or couldn't get a loose ball or couldn't finish a play," Christian said. "There's a lot of plays that you have to finish if you are going to have a chance to win on the road and for whatever reason we just didn't finish the plays."
Another Ohio turnover gave the Flashes an opportunity to cut into the lead even more but two Kent State shooters passed up open looks at the basket and the possession ended when Fisher missed a jumper.
"Two good shots by two good shooters; those are shots they have to take," Christian said. "I don't know why they passed them up. They have to shoot the shots in those situations but for whatever reason they passed them up."
Williams pulled down the rebound for the Bobcats and after dishing off the ball to Whittington, who scored on an easy lay-up, got tangled up with Singletary. Singletary was called for a technical foul and after complaining about the call was hit with another. After discussing the call with the referees, Christian picked up a third technical foul which sent Ohio's Jerome Tillman to the line for six free throws. Tillman connected on five of six shots to ice the game.
"I'm not going to comment on officials. I'm not going to comment on the play," Christian said. "I could give you my version of it but I'm not going to do that.
"You have to remain poised?them and me. We've got to learn from it; it's not something that should happen. It's not the way that we need to act."
The loss ended Kent State's four-game winning streak and sets up a battle with Akron for first place in the MAC East on Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.
Technical Fouls: C. Singletary