Late-game Kent State struggles prove costly in loss to Falcons


Kent State junior guard Kevin Zabo dribbles the ball up court against Bowling Green State University at the M.A.C. Center on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. Kent State lost in overtime, 84-83.

Nick Buzzelli

As head coach Rob Senderoff left his postgame press conference in the M.A.C. Center’s media room following Tuesday’s overtime loss to Bowling Green State University, he let out a sigh of frustration, one indicative of his team’s miscues and lack of execution when the game was on the line.

If the Flashes had one less turnover in overtime or were able to get one more defensive rebound, perhaps the outcome would have been different, the head coach suggested.

Holding a one point lead late, senior forward Jimmy Hall turned the ball over on an in-bounds play and Bowling Green’s Demajeo Wiggins tipped in a Rodrick Caldwell missed layup with 1.3 seconds left as the Falcons (11-13, 5-6 Mid-American Conference) outlasted Kent State (13-11, 5-6 MAC), 84-83 in overtime.

 “Disappointing loss and tough one to swallow. Tough one to swallow,” Senderoff said after the game. “We came back from down 13 with 5:33 to go and had the lead and the ball up four with less than a minute to go. They hit a three, we turn it over and we don’t get a rebound. Really disappointing.”

Sophomore guard Jaylin Walker led all scorers with 18 points on a 4-6 mark from beyond the arc, while junior guard Kevin Zabo, who left the game following an injury in overtime, chipped in 17 in 24 minutes of play.

After Caldwell’s three pointer cut Bowling Green’s deficit to one, with nine seconds left in the extra frame, Hall tried to force the ensuing in-bounds pass to a curling junior guard Desmond Ridenour along the sideline.

However, the ball hit off of Ridenour and sailed out of bounds – one of Kent State’s 19 turnovers in the game – giving the Falcons a chance with less than six seconds left on the clock.

While Kent State had timeouts available at its disposal, Senderoff said Hall tried to rush the pass well before he was in danger of being whistled for a five-second call.

“… He threw the ball. It’s not like it was close to five seconds and you say ‘Hey, let’s call a timeout,’” Senderoff said. “He just threw it and it went off (Ridenour’s) hands, went out of bounds.”

The Flashes had an opportunity to win the game with a last-second three pointer, but Walker bobbled the in-bounds pass from Ridenour at the top of the key and couldn’t get a clean shot off in time.

Despite trailing by 13 with 5:33 left in the first half, Kent State used a 16-6 run to head into the locker room down three, 34-31.

Eight unanswered points by Walker early in the second half – two three’s and a contested layup in the lane – gave the Golden Flashes their first lead since the 15:49 mark of the first half. But the Falcons responded and used two free throws by guard Matt Fox to go back up by nine.

Four free throws by Hall and four points by Zabo – including a game-tying fade away jumper that was banked in high off the glass – completed Kent State’s comeback in regulation and subsequently set up Wiggins’ overtime heroics.

Although he posted a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds), Hall struggled when being double and tripled teamed in the low post.

“They’re physical, play hard. Real physical with (Hall) in particular. They do a good job on him,” Senderoff said. “We just don’t play quite as well at home or together at home as we do on the road. I can give you what I think the reason is, but I’d prefer not to.”

The Flashes play at Toledo Saturday – a team it defeated 85-61 on Jan. 21 – before returning to the M.A.C. Center three days later to take on Miami (OH).

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]