Flashes contain Keene in win


Central Michigan junior guard Marcus Keene bites his jersey while waiting to shake hands with Kent State after loosing in overtime 116-106 in the first round of the MAC Men’s Basketball Tournament at the M.A.C. Center on Monday, March 6, 2017. Keene had a game high 41 points.

Henry Palattella

Kent State’s Monday night first round matchup against Central Michigan started much like the Flashes’ Jan. 28 matchup with the Chippewas ended — with junior Marcus Keene taking over.

Keene ended the last matchup by starting overtime with two deep three-point goals that moved all the momentum the Chippewas’ way in their eventual 105-98 win.

Keene’s dominant run in Monday’s game began with 18:31 left in the first half when he dribbled the ball past half-court, put Kent State senior Deon Edwin off balance, and then knocked down a deep three to make it 5-3 Central Michigan.

Keene came back on the next possession by knocking down a deep three with freshman Mitch Peterson in his face. He followed up by once again shaking a Kent State defender and knocking down another deep three — that not only sent the few Central Michigan fans in attendance into a frenzy, but also drew some “oh’s” and “ah’s” from the Kent State supporters.

When all the dust settled, Keene celebrated at half court while the Flashes retreated to their bench after Coach Rob Senderoff called a timeout with his team down 11-5.

Keene continued his hot streak in the first half: Over the course of the next 11 minutes, Keene had more points (14) than Kent State had as a team (13). He made his impact on the game in more ways than just scoring, however, as he hit the floor not only with his handles, but also with his trademark cross-court passes.

Keene even scored inside the paint, as he quickly slid past the Flashes’ big men on screens and forced Kent State’s guards to abandon the inside.  

Keene closed out the first half with a half-court three-pointer that he got off between two Kent State defenders to give Central Michigan a 53-40 halftime lead.

He ran toward the locker room as soon as he threw the shot up and broke into a high-step once it went in. In total, Keene finished with 22 first-half points on six three-pointers. Backcourt teammate Braylon Rayson joined him in double-digit figures with 16 points.

The Flashes kept Keene in check for most of the second half, which allowed the Flashes to eventually tie the game at 57 points apiece and 14 minutes left in the second half.

Keene went 3-12 during the Flashes’ comeback run. One of his would-be shots made it in the basket, but he shot the ball from behind the backboard and referees waived the basket.

“As guards, we just really had to take pride in not letting him score on us,” Flashes sophomore guard Jalen Avery said after the game. “We couldn’t let him size us up. We had to make him as uncomfortable as possible and take those acrobatic shots. We tried to make him put it on the floor more and not be able to shoot … easy threes.”

Luckily for the Chippewas, Rayson picked up Keene’s slack and compiled 16 points in the second half.

Hall and sophomore Jaylin Walker paced the Flashes in the second half, combining for 34 of the Flashes’ 51 second-half points. Walker went 6-8 from three-point range in the second half, which sparked the Flashes in its comeback.

Neither team made their last shot, and the game went into overtime tied at 91. Keene started overtime off with a long three-pointer. The three — which he shot sandwiched between two Kent State defenders — was reminiscent of the one he made to start off overtime the last time the teams played. The Flashes responded, however, with Avery’s two big three-pointers that lifted Kent State to a 97-94 lead.

Keene scored 13 of the Chippewas’ 15 overtime points, but Avery managed 16 of the Flashes’ 25 overtime points in the eventual 116-106 win.

“Great player,” Senderoff said of Keene after the game. “Rayson, too. (He’s) been a four-year player there. Marcus Keene (had) a phenomenal season. Probably the best scorer I’ve seen in this league, and Rayson’s not far off from that. He’s one of the best scorers I’ve seen in the league, too. (Central Michigan) has two of them together and it took a total effort from us to weather that (early) storm.”

Keene finished the season with seven 40-point games on the season, which is two more than any player in the conference. Keene needed to score 42 points Monday to lift his season average to 30 points per game.

He finished the game with 41. 

Henry Palattella is the sports editor, contact him at [email protected]