March 11, 2009

Flashes survive Huskies

CLEVELAND, OHIO--Kent State survived the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena, defeating Northern Illinois, 64-61. The Golden Flashes advanced to Thursday's quarterfinal round against the Buffalo Bulls with the game to tip off at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Playing without suspended junior guard Chris Singletary, senior Al Fisher was asked to carry even more of the burden and the 2007-2008 MAC Player of the Year was up to the challenge. Fisher scored Kent State's first 11 points to start the game, including going 3 for 3 from 3-point range in the first five minutes of the game. Fisher finished the first half with 20 of KSU's 37 first half total on an array of smooth looking jump shots and floaters in the lane.

However, Northern Illinois was able to keep pace behind its explosive backcourt of freshman Mike DiNunno and sophomore Jake Anderson. DiNunno and Anderson had 10 and 11 points, respectively.

Both teams shot 50-percent from the floor in the first half.

''In the first half, everything just seemed to be going in,'' Fisher said. ''In the second, I came out with the same mindset, but everybody on the team came in and contributed and stepped up. So it was a lot easier when [the Huskies] doubled me and whoever got [the ball] did what they were supposed to do.''

In the second half Kent State slowly started to fade and after going more than five minutes without a field goal, Northern Illinois had a 56-48 lead with seven minutes left to play. From that point on, Kent State closed the game on a 16-5 run to beat the Huskies by three points for the second time this season.

Two big baskets by Brandon Parks tied the score at 58 at the 3:53 mark. Fisher had been held without a field goal in the second half until the man known for his late game heroics, went to work.

His bucket with two minutes to go lifted Kent State to a 62-58 advantage. His pull-up jumper with 1:10 remaining made it 64-61, answering a DiNunno triple with 1:42 left. After a turnover, Anderson had a shot at a game tying three with six seconds left but missed it.

After a timeout, DiNunno was triple-teamed then found Anderson for a desperation 25-footer that was way off, and the Golden Flashes could breathe a sigh of relief.

''Their guard Fisher just really put his team on his back and made some big plays,'' Huskies coach Ricardo Patton said. ''There were a number of his shots that were contested by our players, but he really did a nice job of making tough baskets.''

Mike McKee once again gave the Golden Flashes a huge lift with nine points on three 3-point field goals to go along with four rebounds.

The shooting was markedly worse in the second half, as both teams hovered around the 30-percent mark. For the game, KSU shot 41-percent (25-61), while the Huskies finished at 40.4-percent (23-57). NIU held a slight advantage on the boards (42-37), but a 20-9 advantage in points off of turnovers went in the Flashes' favor.

''Our guys hung in there and battled and believed we were going to find a way in spite of trailing the majority of the game,'' Kent State head coach Geno Ford said.

Game Notes:

  • Kent State is the sixth seed in the tournament the third time it has happened (last in 1998 defeated Akron)
  • The Flashes are 18-5 lifetime at Quicken Loans Arena in MAC Tournament play
  • Al Fisher-KSU has scored in double digits in all four of his MAC Tournament games. His 13th career 20-point game
  • This was the first ever meeting between the Flashes and Huskies in MAC Tournament play
  • Al Fisher-KSU three pointer in the first half gave them at least one three in 327 games
  • KSU head coach Geno Ford collected his first ever MAC Tournament win and is 2-0 lifetime against NIU head man Ricardo Patton. The win was the 19th by the Flashes as they were the higher seed in the MAC Tournament
  • Jake Anderson-NIU scored in double digits for the sixth consecutive game and the 25th time this season
  • Huskies are 2-10 lifetime at Quicken Loans Arena in MAC Tournament play
  • NIU is 1-8 lifetime in first round games
  • Jordan Mincy-KSU set a MAC record playing in his 133rd consecutive game
  • Kent State eleventh consecutive win against the MAC West
  • KSU is 8-1 in their last nine MAC Tournament games
KSU crowd lifts Golden Flashes: The Golden Flashes' fans that packed all around the lower bowl of Quicken Loans Arena behind the Kent State bench, and the ones scattered all across The Q, made a big difference in lifting Kent State when they were down according to head coach Geno Ford.

"Our crowd was fantastic," said Ford. "I'm not kidding when I tell you I think they were arguably as important as Al Fisher today, in terms of what they brought to our team. The type of fans we had here today were a difference because they really gave our kids some extra life. I thought our crowd today, excluding maybe the Akron home game and maybe the Buffalo game, it was our second or third best atmosphere of the year. It's March and our fans are hungry to keep playing and that's great."

BP a difference maker once again: Junior center Brandon Parks was a force on the interior once again for Kent State and made several big plays down the stretch.

"It's funny, he only had six points and four boards, but I really feel he won the game for us,'' Ford said. ''Brandon got two huge put backs and on the defensive end he challenged some shots around the rim.''

''I just got in the zone when I got the tip in,'' Parks said. ''It really got me going. I knew what I was capable of and just tried to do whatever we needed to win the game.''

The tip in that Parks was referring to was his basket at the 4:31 mark of the second half that brought Kent State to within 56-58.

Awards: Al Fisher was named first team All-MAC while Chris Singletary made honorable mention. Singletary is expected to play on Thursday against Buffalo. Also, Jordan Mincy was named Defensive Player of the Year by MAC Report Online. On Wednesday, the league offices will announce Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Freshman of the year.

Buffalo: Kent State advances to take on Buffalo on Thursday afternoon. Last week Kent State prevailed over Buffalo 77-71 in overtime in an extremely physical game.

"Tough match up for us," Ford said. "We've played them twice and they've had over 20 offensive rebounds in both games. It's going to be a tough assignment and they do a great job, they compete hard. What Reggie has done with that team has been phenomenal. They were picked last, they tied for first. Inside they have hurt us on the back board and their guards have really played well against us."

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