Flashes survive late scare, outlast Miami (OH)

Nike Sibande celebrates with his Miami (OH) teammates after what he thought was a game-winner on Feb. 27, 2018. 

Cameron Hoover

The final 10 seconds in regulation of Tuesday night’s contest between Kent State and Miami (OH) was more a collection of moments than the dying embers of a college basketball game.

The Flashes had struggled to defend the Redhawks all night, but especially in the second half when Miami (OH) shot 54.2 percent from the floor. It seemed every time Kent State pulled within a point, the Redhawks would shut the door on the comeback.

But with 7.5 seconds left came a moment of jubilation.

Kent State sophomore guard Mitch Peterson entered the game for defensive purposes, and he justified coach Rob Senderoff’s decision with a steal with about 10 seconds left. The Flashes were losing, 75-73, at the time, and Peterson was 80 feet from a chance to tie.

He dribbled with purpose for about 60 of those feet, before stopping on a dime and whipping a pass to Kevin Zabo, who was standing at the three-point line.

Zabo wasted no time. The senior guard took a few dribbles and jumped into Miami (OH)’s Bam Bowman at the rim. No foul was called, but it didn’t matter. Zabo banked in the layup for two of his game-high 21 points, and the game was tied at 75 with 7.5 seconds left.

A few moments later, jubilation turned to euphoria.

Miami (OH) point guard Darrian Ringo caught the ensuing inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court. He stormed past four Flashes’ defenders, but the unstoppable force met an immovable object at the rim.

Flashes defensive enforcer Danny Pippen leapt with Ringo’s game-winning attempt. Pippen got all of it, swatting the shot more like a fly than a basketball.

Ecstasy swept the Kent State crowd, bench and players as the Redhawks regrouped with a timeout with 2.0 seconds left.

With the crowd still in hysterics, Miami (OH) guard Jalen Adaway inbounded the ball to freshman Nike Sibande. Sibande gave Jalen Avery a pump fake and took one dribble before hoisting the heartbreaker.

Nothing but net.

And just as quickly as the excitement came, it vanished, leaving one noise in its wake:

Silence.

The silence persisted when the referees went to the monitor.

“I asked a couple guys if it was good or not,” Senderoff said. “And they weren’t sure. You saw he had the shot fake, he had the dribble, and there’s only two seconds left. Can you do all that in two seconds?”

For Zabo, though, there was never any doubt.

“I thought I was the only one who saw the shot didn’t count,” Zabo said. “I heard the sound of the buzzer, and he still had the ball in his hand. In my head, I was getting ready for overtime. But then I looked at everyone’s reaction, and some people were leaving the arena. I was like, ‘What’s going on? We got overtime!’

“I was nervous, but I knew.”

Turns out Zabo’s hunch was right. The referees turned around and signalled the shot was no good, sending the game into overtime.

If the game was one moment longer, the outcome might’ve been different.

“If there’s 2.2 seconds, we lose,” Senderoff said. “But there were two seconds. The officials did their job.”

Once overtime started, Pippen made sure the victory was sealed. The sophomore forward scored Kent State’s first seven points of the overtime period. The Flashes (15-15, 9-8 Mid-American Conference) poured in 15 points in five minutes, propelling the team to an 90-83 overtime victory over Miami (OH) (15-15, 8-9 MAC).

There may have been some extra motivation, considering the last time these two teams met. Miami (OH) jumped out to a 29-point lead in the first half en route to a 80-69 drubbing of the Flashes.

“We went to their place, and they smacked us in the mouth,” senior guard Desmond Ridenour said. “We didn’t get rid of that taste.”

Pippen finished the game with 17 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season. Avery added 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting, while Jaylin Walker scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half. Adonis De La Rosa rounded out the double-digit scorers with 16 points.

Dalonte Brown led the Redhawks with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Sibande added 17, Adaway poured in 13 and Bowman chipped in with 12. Ringo flirted with a triple-double, scoring seven points, pulling down nine rebounds and tallying 11 assists.

The game began with a Senior Night celebration for Zabo and Ridenour, who said he appreciated his time at Kent State for moments just like the one when the final buzzer sounded on the overtime win.

“As a whole, Kent State has been the best three years of my life,” Ridenour said. “It was fun getting the win tonight. It was fun last year with the confetti falling and raising those rings (after Kent State’s MAC championship), but my senior year, I want it to happen again.

“I don’t want to look back and regret anything.”

Cameron Hoover is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]