March 9, 2009

Flashes out slug Zips

Kent, Ohio--In another entertaining, competitive, bizarre chapter to the Kent State-Akron men's basketball rivalry, the Golden Flashes were able to rally for a 67-63 win on Sunday afternoon on Senior day at the M.A.C. Center in front of 5,327 passionate fans.

The bizarre was on display early as junior guard Chris Singletary was ejected just 1:08 into the game for connecting on a punch to the abdomen of Akron's Nate Linhart. Linhart had been shut off on attempt to drive baseline, then as he was passing the ball back out top, Singletary caught him with a shot just below the ribs.

The officials reviewed the play on the television replay monitor and ruled that Kent State would have to find a way to win without the Chicago native.

Kent State held Akron without a field goal for the final 5:22 and ended the game on a 14-5 run to take the game. Junior sharp shooter Mike McKee was a hero down the stretch swishing a 3-pointer with 1:02 left to give KSU a 63-62 lead.

"I was running the wing and I wasn't looking for the ball and I heard Al (Fisher) yell 'Mike'", said McKee. "I turned and looked and the ball was on me already so luckily I didn't have time to think about it, I just caught it turned and shot it. I just happened so quick I didn't have time to think about it which was probably a good thing."

In an extremely physical first half, Kent State trailed for all 20 minutes and was down by as many as 10 before rallying behind five points from senior guard Al Fisher.

Another key that kept Kent State in the game was the inspired play of senior forward Julian Sullinger. The undersized Sullinger had seven points and eight rebounds while playing all 20 minutes in the opening stanza and throwing his body all over the court.

"In the first half Julian gave us a chance to win", said Kent State head coach Geno Ford. "He almost had a double-double at halftime and if he doesn't play like that we're done, game's over. He was the one guy that kept us in it. Everyone struggled in the first half but Julian, he was the one guy that willed us to keep it close."

In his final home game, Fisher led all scorers with 18 points and dished out a game-high five assists. McKee also finished in double figures with 10 points. Brett McKnight led Akron with 14 points, while freshman Anthony Hitchens added 13. The Zips shot just 38-percent from the field compared to 41-percent for KSU. The Golden Flashes also owned the glass grabbing a 43-31 advantage.

Kent State will play on Tuesday in the MAC Tournament against Northern Illinois at approximately 2:30 p.m., with the winner getting Buffalo on Thursday at 2:00 p.m. The Flashes defeated the Huskies, 86-83 in double overtime, back on Feb. 10.

Game Notes:

Seniors go out winners: Jordan Mincy, Al Fisher and Julian Sullinger were honored prior to the game for Senior day. Mincy tied the career record for games played in the MAC on Sunday and will be remembered as a winning point guard with at least two regular season and tournament MAC Championships. He will also be remembered as one the most tenacious on the ball defenders that the league has seen. Fisher was just the second player in program history to win the Player of the Year in the conference for his spectacular season in 2007-2008. Sullinger will be remembered as an undersized forward who maximized his size and talent, while being a great leader.

"There haven't been three higher character or better kids to have than these three," Ford said. "Going through an entire season, I haven't had one meeting with any of them that I didn't call, meaning they didn't come to ask why I didn't get more shots, why don't I get more minutes, why don't I start? I wanted to win so bad for Jordan, Jules [Julian Sullinger] and Al because of that reason. I've coached for 15 years and I don't think I've ever had three guys that have never asked what's in it for me at any point."

Black Uniforms: The seniors decided to bring out the black uniforms for their final game at the M.A.C. Center. They figured it was their final chance to get a victory in the uniforms that they had been 0-3 in the past two seasons before Sunday.

Singletary: Chris Singletary had an early exit to Sunday's game, being ejected just 1:08 into the game for a punch on Nate Linhart. The official release from official Terry Wymer was handed out after the game.

"It was a personal flagrant foul on Chris Singletary. They had five shots available and the guys in the truck did a great job. It was a non-basketball play and warranted a flagrant," released Wymer.

It was also confirmed that it was not considered a fighting foul and that Singletary would not be suspended for any of the MAC Tournament. Akron coach Keith Dambrot said he has seen similar cheap shots taken by Singletary 10 or 15 times on film in his post game press conference.

"I can't really say I'm sorry for him, he just has to learn from it and not do it anymore. I'm not upset with him I just want him to learn from it," said Dambrot.

Tournament talk: Kent State plays the one team from the West Division that they probably would have wanted to avoid in the first round of the MAC Tournament starting on Tuesday. Northern Illinois had Kent State just about beaten in the first game before some clutch plays down the stretch and free throw shooting propelled KSU, overcoming point guard Mike DiNunno's half court shot that sent the game into a second overtime. If Kent State were to win that game they would play Buffalo in a quarterfinal match up on Thursday afternoon. Kent State just prevailed on Thursday over the Bulls in one of the more physical games Kent State has played all year. The West Division ended the only way it could have on Sunday afternoon. Ball State and Western Michigan both lost on their home court with a chance to win a share of the title. Instead Central Michigan snuck in and clinched a three way tie at 7-9. For seeding purposes, Ball State gets the number two seed and will be on the same side of the bracket as KSU. It is hard to fathom when looking at the bracket, that either Ball State, Central Michigan or Eastern Michigan will be making it to the semifinals, and either Akron or Miami and Kent State or Buffalo will be losing in the quarterfinal round.

Parks plays inspired: Junior center Brandon Parks had a very effective game Sunday with six points and nine rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive glass.

"He's had better statistical games but I don't think he's played with that much fire," Ford said. "You can see in his eyes that that he was on a mission. He went after every rebound; he grabbed balls in traffic that we just haven't seen him grab every time. He was on another level today. He played great."

"It really helped me when Fish [Al Fisher], Mike [McKee] and Frank [Henry-Ala] really got me going today just seeing Frank play the way he did after not getting a ton of minutes on the season," Parks said. "It got me going as a player and when one big thing happens for you the next ones come easy, that's all I usually need is one thing to get me going then after that I can get going easy."

Extending another streak: While it remains to be seen if Kent State can extend its run of 20-plus win seasons to 11, the Golden Flashes did extend a streak on Sunday. With their tenth conference win they are one of four teams across the country to have 10 or more conference wins in the last 11 seasons joining Kansas, Gonzaga and Creighton.

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