A few games ago Kent State men's basketball coach Jim Christian said now that it's February, he didn't care how pretty the games are as long as the Golden Flashes win. Who would have known his players would take him literally?
The Flashes struggled through nearly every second of the game Wednesday evening before finally stopping Ball State (3-18, 2-7 MAC) in overtime, 64-61, in front of 3,086 fans at the M.A.C. Center.
Once again it was sloppy turnovers-they have only had two conference games with less turnovers than assists-and inefficient play on the offensive end that led to the Flashes troubles.
"No matter how bad we play or how many turnovers we have at the end of the day or the end of the game we always put ourselves in a position to win," Kent State sophomore guard Chris Singletary said.
Yet the Flashes tried to give this one away on many occasions. After building a 13-point lead with just over 13 minutes left in the second period, Kent State watched as Cardinals forward Anthony Newell took over.
The senior flipped in an acrobatic, nearly impossible shot from underneath the basket to beat the shot clock. He then scored six more points during a Ball State 21-2 run that gave his team the lead with 9:25 remaining in the game. He led the Cardinals with 20 points and 12 rebounds on the night.
"We had a great flow going in terms of getting defensive stops and getting the rebound, which is always a challenge for us being undersized and then guys pushing it. Pushing it hard," Ball State head coach Billy Taylor said.
The Flashes missed 10 field goals during that run and shot a dismal 33 percent for the game (19-57). If it weren't for two clutch free throws by junior guard Al Fisher with 25 seconds remaining in regulation, Ball State would have won on the road for the first time this season-eight games-and the first time in 11 road games. Fisher finished the game with 17 points and four assists.
"We didn't come out and play with the energy that we wanted to play with for the whole game and it's disappointing," Christian said.
Even in the overtime period, Kent State seemed as if this wasn't its game to win. Ball State freshman guard Melvin Goins hit two 3-pointers-he was a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc in the game-that gave the Cardinals a three-point lead, 61-58, with just 32 seconds remaining.
After a Fisher lay up with 25.8 seconds left, Kent State unleashed a full court trap. Ball State initially had another player step on the baseline receive a pass then dump the ball inbounds. But due to a clock malfunction the Cardinals were forced to inbound the ball again.
This time Kent State sophomore guard Rodriguez Sherman intercepted the Peyton Stovall pass and got the ball to Fisher on the right wing. Fisher drove to the hoop, but missed the lay-up. Luckily senior center Haminn Quaintance was there for the tip in with 13.4 seconds remaining on the clock. Giving the Flashes a 62-61 lead they once again tried to give away.
With just 4.2 seconds remaining on the clock, Singletary pushed Newell to the ground while he was in the act of shooting. It was then up to Newell to connect on two foul shots to win the game. Both clanked off the back of the iron.
The second shot landed in the long dangling arms of Mike Scott who then secured the win with two free throws of his own. The Flashes shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line in overtime and 92 percent for the game (23-25).
"These are games that we easily could lose," Christian said. "You got to find a way which we did. We battled all the way through, when shots aren't falling it's easy quit and it's easy to give up and our guys would never do that."
Quaintance paced the Flashes with 16 rebounds and 12 points. Scott added 14 points and 8 rebounds while Singletary had 13 points.
KSU Game Notes:
- Senior Haminn Quaintance has five double-doubles in nine Mid-American Conference games and seven overall for the season
- The 13-0 record at home is the best start for the Golden Flashes in a season at the M.A.C. Center. The 13 wins equal a school record for home wins (1998-99 & 1999-2000, 13-1)
- KSU won its first game when trailing with five minutes remaining in regulation
- This was the first overtime game since the Golden Flashes lost to Akron in their home finale last season 66-63
- Jim Christian celebrated his 43rd birthday. Christian is 4-0 on his birthday in his career
- Sixth straight game Al Fisher has scored in double digits in the second half. Fisher scored 11 points in the second half and four more in overtime
- Kent State won its 13th straight home game against the MAC West
- Mike Scott has made 17 straight free throws and 34 of his last 35
- The Golden Flashes are shooting .797 (149-187) from the foul line in the last eight games
- Q's 16 rebounds equal the most by a KSU player this season (Mike Scott - 16 IPFW)
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