March 11, 2009

Flashes refuse to lose

It was doom and gloom for most of the second half against Northern Illinois in the first round of the 2009 Mid-American Conference tournament. Kent State, playing on unfamiliar territory without the usual first round bye, was down by eight points with about eight minutes to go.

A few back and fourth buckets, and the Flashes had cut the lead by only a few points heading into the final minutes.

Any sports fan knows the feeling. They know that sense of let down, they know that lump in the back of their throat and they sense that a loss is coming. Watching the Flashes, a fan may have begun feeling that, but Kent State fans know better.

Watching the Flashes fail to stop the Huskies from scoring could have made any Kent State alum feel that way as the minutes dwindled, but it probably didn't.

I've learned in my years on the Kent State campus, and on my trips to the MAC Tournament last season, and to St. Mary's in San Francisco last February--Kent State is a hard program to beat when its back is against that uncomfortable, deadly, season-ending sharp wall.

It's not a tough program to beat because it has a loaded roster of highly touted players. It's not a tough program to beat because it has a roster full of upperclassmen every year. For the negative people out there, Kent State is not a tough program to beat because it has tons of JUCO players who have flocked to the one program who will accept them.

It's a tough program because Kent State has this magical ability to garner big performances from players when they need it, and it's not always from the 2007-08 MAC Player of the Year, Al Fisher.

Kent State wins the MAC last season because Mike Scott wouldn't let them lose. Kent State refused to be beaten by St. Mary's last season because "Q" played the finest second half I have ever seen. And Kent State won its first round game against Northern Illinois because Brandon Parks' presence in the paint changed the game. They won because Mike McKee made big shots.

The Flashes didn't win because Tyree Evans, the most talked about man on the roster this season, made big shots. They didn't lose because Chris Singletary wasn't playing. They won, because like most Kent State teams over the course of the past 11 years, it didn't matter who was on the roster, it mattered that those players on the roster understood that it wasn't time for the season to end.

The Flashes may lose to Buffalo on Thursday. It wouldn't be the first time they lost outside the championship game, but one thing is certain: It's going to take a top performance from any team to end a Kent State basketball season.

And if that happens, the Flashes will head into the off-season with coach Geno Ford looking for players who understand what to do when the back is against that season-murdering wall. It's what Jim Christian did. It's what Stan--- oh yeah, never mind. And it's what Gary Waters built.

Let's see if the real streak continues.

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