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November 19, 2008Al Fisher needs a new nickname.
Last season, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound guard was tagged with "Big Shot" after his knack for making key shots in clutch situations. But, Big Shot doesn't nearly describe what the reigning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year did at Saint Louis on Wednesday night in a 76-74 Golden Flashes victory.
Fisher scored a game-high 35 points, but he dominated the final five minutes of regulation and the overtime period. In fact, during the final 9 minutes, 18 seconds of the game, Fisher outscored the entire Saint Louis team, 27-22.
Even more impressive, Fisher played the last 4 minutes, 12 seconds of overtime with a badly twisted ankle suffered attempting to pull down an offensive rebound.
"We had a few guys in foul trouble, so I knew people had to step up and I like being in that situation; and I didn't want to come out of the game," Fisher said. "I knew I was hurting, but I was just going to put some ice on it anyway."
After watching his award-winning guard down the stretch, Kent State head coach Geno Ford might be the one holding that bag of ice on Fisher's ankle.
"I can't describe in words the way Fisher played down the stretch tonight," Ford said. "It was the best offensive performance I have ever seen in person. He hit tough shot after tough shot and made all seven shots he took in overtime. It was like something you would see on ESPN Classic."
Kent State (2-0) led, 24-20, at the half, despite shooting just 11-32 (34.4-percent) from the floor and 1-10 (10-percent) from three-point range. The Flashes picked it up a bit in the second half, but so did the Billikens.
There were seven lead changes in the final 20 minutes of play, but no lead larger than the Billikens' 36-30 advantage with 13:33 left to play in the game.
Saint Louis (1-1) led 51-48 with 4:46 left, but that's when Fisher went to work.
First, he stole a Billikens pass and converted an and-one to tie the score with 4:18 to go. Fisher again pocketed a Saint Louis pass, but this time his lay-up gave KSU a 53-51 lead.
The Billikens reeled off four straight points before Fisher hit a pair of free throws to tie the score at 55 with three minutes to go. The teams traded baskets?with Fisher hitting both jumpers for the Flashes?to close out regulation.
The overtime belonged to Fisher.
He scored the first bucket of the extra period to give Kent State a 61-59 lead. Mike McKee followed up a Saint Louis basket by hitting one of two free throws?he'd be the only other KSU player to score in the game's final 12 minutes, 28 seconds.
Fisher added two three-pointers, three jump shots and a lay-up with just three seconds remaining to close out the victory for the Golden Flashes. Saint Louis had one final shot at the buzzer, but it came up short.
"It was tied and we wanted to get that last shot," said Fisher of his game-winner. "I went a little early and got scared. My heart started beating real fast when that half court shot (by SLU) was in the air."
Last season, Kent State defeated St. Louis, 81-40. But, playing on the road, the Flashes are just happy to come away with a win.
"It was a great win in a lot of ways," Ford said. "Our guys stepped up in a tough environment against a good team. To be a great team you have to win on the road and we did that tonight."
Kent State returns to the friendly confines of the M.A.C. Center on Sunday when they'll host North Carolina-Wilmington.
Share your thoughts on the game and Fisher's performance in the Blue and Gold Forum.
Officials: Mike Kitts, Bob Donato, D.J. Carstensen