March 20, 2008

Flash and burn

OMAHA, Neb.-- Kent State couldn't have picked a worse time to play its most abysmal basketball of the season.

The No. 9 seed Golden Flashes tied an NCAA Tournament record for fewest points scored in a half as they fell to No. 8 UNLV, 71-58, in front of 17,162 in a first round game at the Qwest Center.

"You play 35 games, you go play horribly-we picked a bad time to play horribly," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian. " We just played poorly. (There is) nothing we can do about it. We can discuss this all day long. It's just we played poorly in every facet of the game in the first 20 minutes."

Playing poorly might understate just how terrible the Flashes played in the first half.

After sophomore guard [db]Chris Singletary opened the scoring to give Kent State it's only lead of the game, UNLV went on an 11-0 run, fueled by several turnovers and other key Kent State mistakes.

The Flashes hit on just 5 of 24 shots (20.8 percent) and had 17 of their 20 turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game.

"The first half of basketball was just so unlike how we played all year," Christian said. "We just came out, played with no confidence, just made silly mistake after silly mistake. UNLV is a great team, (they) took advantage of it. But that was about as bad as we can play, but they obviously did a great job taking advantage of it."

Nine minutes into the game Kent State had turned the ball over seven times in their first 12 possessions. UNLV used those turnovers to create a double-digit lead over the Flashes and the Rebels led 31-10 at the half.

"When they just don't quite have it going it's important to widen the lead as much as you possibly can during that time," said UNLV head coach Lon Kruger. "Because once they turned it around, (it) obviously showed in the second half that the two clubs were pretty even. I think (if) we played 10 times, it probably would be five﷓five, as eight, nines normally are, but the ability to widen the lead in the first half was obviously the difference in the ball game."

Kent State played better in the second half. In fact, they outscored the Runnin' Rebels, 48-40, in the final 20 minutes. But by then the damage had been done.

"We picked it up offensively," said senior forward Haminn Quaintance. "I think we only had 10 points or something like that in the first half. But when we picked up offensively we kind of let down defensively a little bit and started trading buckets with them; you can't afford to trade buckets when you're down 20﷓some points."

The Golden Flashes finished the 2007-08 season with a 28-7 record.

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