March 20, 2008

Rebels run past Kent State

OMAHA, Neb.-- So much for ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi proclaiming the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV were no match for the Kent State men's basketball team; so much for Louisville coach Rick Pitino picking the Flashes as well.

Kent State got skunked, 71-58, in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament at the Qwest Center Omaha.

While the final was only a 13-point differential, the game was never in doubt as the Flashes tied a modern day NCAA Division I record for offensive futility with just 10 points in the first half. Kent State trailed 31-10 at the break.

"We couldn't seem to buy a basket," senior forward Mike Scott said. "They weren't doing anything to sophisticated that we couldn't stop. They shot (39 percent) in the first half. We were a little too wound up for the game."

Wound up? Perhaps. These Flashes were downright atrocious.

Kent State was 5 of 24 from the field in the first period and had two stretches over seven minutes apiece where they were held scoreless.

When sophomore forward Chris Singletary spun his way to the basket and chipped in Kent State's third field goal of the game with three minutes and 53 seconds left in the first half the crowd of 17,162 erupted.

Ball control was another huge issue in the first half. Kent State had 17 of its 20 turnovers in the first half.

"The first half of basketball was just so unlike how we played all year," Kent State coach Jim Christian said. "We just came out, played with no confidence; just made silly mistake after silly mistake."

While the Flashes were slipping, UNLV was busy playing an efficient basketball game and stretching its lead to 21 by the half.

Despite a second half where Kent State outscored UNLV 48-40, the first half deficit was too much for the Flashes to surpass.

"You know Kent's a good ball club," UNLV head coach Lon Kruger said. "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. 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 (seeds) normally are, but the ability to widen the lead in the first half was obviously the difference in the ball game."


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