March 4, 2008

Flashes get defensive in win over RedHawks

Whatever caused Kent State to give up 89 points in a loss at Bowling Green last week, it wasn't the national spotlight. The Golden Flashes-who lost 89-83 to Bowling Green on Saturday after climbing into the Top 25 during the regular season for the first time in school history-clinched a share of the overall Mid-American Conference title with a 50-39 victory over Miami Tuesday night in front of 5,476 at the M.A.C. Center in a game nationally televised on ESPN2.

The Golden Flashes (24-6 overall, 12-3 in the MAC) weren't particularly sharp on offense-they shot 41.5 percent from the floor but turned the ball over 19 times-but it didn't matter. The defense found its rhythm early and held Miami to just 32.7 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers.

"Usually when you don't play well offensively, your defense suffers, but (our kids) were so tough and gritty today," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian. "That was probably as good a defense as you can play. I was proud of their effort; I was proud of how hard they played. The other stuff we can get better at but that mentality they had today, they were not going to lose this basketball game."

Miami had scored 167 points in its last two games but couldn't get anything going against the Flashes. The RedHawks (14-14, 8-7) hit just 8 of 24 field goals and scored just 18 points in the first half. For the first time this season, Miami went without hitting a 3-pointer. They were 0 for 8 on the night from behind the arc.

"I take my hat off to Kent State," said Miami assistant coach Jermaine Henderson, who filled in for an ailing Charlie Coles for the second game in a row. "They gave a team 39 points that was playing pretty good. You have to take your hat off to a good defensive team."

Senior Mike Scott drilled a three to give Kent State an early 3-0 lead but Miami used an 8-0 run to lead 12-7 with 11:47 remaining in the first half. The Golden Flashes outscored the RedHawks, 16-6 to close out the first period.

That scoring outburst was fueled by a defense that blocked six shots, out-rebounded the RedHawks, 30-26, and posted eight steals. Even more important, they out-hustled Miami for loose balls.

No loose ball play was more important than the one that gave KSU the lead for good. Scott and junior guard Jordan Mincy dove and scrambled for a loose ball that resulted in a dunk by junior forward Rashad Woods to give the Golden Flashes a 13-12 lead.

"I was talking to Jordan in the locker room, I was like, 'man we had eight dudes on the floor,' Scott said. "He was like, 'man, it was just me and you.' We both dove like 30 times each; it was crazy. I was thinking everybody's out there.

"It's great, that's what Kent State's all about since the first day that I got here. If you're not diving, we do dive drills in practice; if you're not diving you're coming out. That's just something coach instilled in us from day one."

Sophomore guard Chris Singletary, who scored just two of his game-high 15 points in the first half, got the Golden Flashes off to a great start in the second half. He opened the final 20 minutes of play with a steal and a dunk to extend Kent State's lead to 25-18. He went on to score nine of the Golden Flashes final 11 points.

"Today, the whole day I wasn't really feeling to well; I'm still not feeling that good," Singletary said. "In the first half I think I kind of let that take over me mentally, as far as being sick. My teammates kept me up, motivated; kept telling me that it was going to be OK, just play through it. I think in the second half I just forgot about it and gave it my all."

The dunk, and knowing his senior teammates were playing their final game at the M.A.C. Center, helped Singletary get past his illness.

"Coach said, 'It's Mike Scott and (Haminn Quaintances) last game, you guys need to put it all out there,' and that's what I did," he said. "Once I got the steal in the beginning of the second half and got the dunk, I think that kind of got me going."

Junior guard Al Fisher, who entered the game as KSU's leading scorer, was held to just four points. But, his primary role was to shut down one of Miami's top players, Michael Bramos. Fisher hit on just 2 of 9 shots and turned the ball over 10 times, but he held Bramos to just six points.

"He just made bad decisions, it was nothing they did to Al that nobody else has done," Christian said. "He made some poor decisions tonight with the ball; he'll learn from that and get better. But he was the guy chasing Bramos around and that's not an easy task so when you turn the ball over at one end and now you've got to go chase a great player on the other end, that shows some toughness."

The victory gave Kent State a perfect 16-0 record at home and clinched the No. 1 seed in next week's MAC Tournament.

Game Notes:

  • Kent State clinches share of Overall MAC Championship with Western
    Michigan's 72-68 loss at Central Michigan
  • Third time in school history for overall MAC title (2001-02; 2005-06)
  • KSU will be the top seed at MAC Tournament
  • KSU also wrapped up a share of MAC East title for the sixth time in eight years
  • Mike Scott's 12 points give him 50 career double figure scoring games.
  • Scott's 10 rebounds put him over 600 for his career. He now ranks 7th all-time at KSU with 609 rebounds
  • The 39 points were the fewest allowed since a 93-39 win over Urbana on Nov. 24 2002 in Jim Christian's first game as head coach
  • The 24 wins equal the most ever regular season wins for KSU (24 in 2001-02 when they finished 30-6)
  • Al Fisher's streak of scoring in double figures was stopped at 13 straight games with only 4 points
  • First undefeated home season since going 12-0 in 2001-02

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