Late comeback falls short against Western Michigan

Freshman+guard+Mitch+Peterson+of+the+Kent+State+mens+basketball+team+jumps+through+the+Mississippi+Valley+State+University+defense+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+16%2C+2016+at+the+M.A.C.+Center.

Freshman guard Mitch Peterson of the Kent State men’s basketball team jumps through the Mississippi Valley State University defense on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 at the M.A.C. Center.

Nick Buzzelli

Even before Saturday’s game, Kent State associate head coach Eric Haut knew that Western Michigan University had a potent, high-scoring offense. He took note of the way that the Broncos played Jan. 6 in a loss at The University of Akron, and saw that they played well.

He also recognized the fact that Western Michigan has a potential NBA prospect on its roster in Thomas Wilder, a junior guard who put up 22 earlier in the year against UCLA, and Tucker Haymond — a senior averaging 14.2 points per game.

But afterwards, Haut admitted that the Flashes didn’t do all that well guarding the duo of Wilder and Haymond.

“They got two really good players and we didn’t do a good job on those guys,” Haut told Ty Linder during a radio interview on WHLO. “That’s the bottom line.”

Wilder and Haymond combined for 59 points, while the rest of Western Michigan’s team scored 33, and the Broncos (6-10, 2-2) held off a late-game rally to hand Kent State (9-8, 1-3) a 92-88 loss at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Senior Jimmy Hall, who was one of five Flashes to score in double figures, led his team with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while sophomore Jaylin Walker chipped in 17 on a 3-6 performance from beyond the arc.

After matching Western Michigan’s style of play for the majority of the first half, Kent State began the final frame down three. But the team fell behind once their opponent scored eight unanswered points a little more than one minute in.

A three in transition by freshman Mitch Peterson cut the deficit to two with 4:55 left, but the Broncos countered and went ahead by eight with 1:27 left.

Then, Kent State once again narrowed the gap to two courtesy of a 6-0 run over the final 1:30.

However, Western Michigan — which shot 65 percent from the charity stripe for the game — made four of its final six free throws and contested a junior Desmond Ridenour three-pointer during the closing seconds that would have gotten the Flashes within one.

Kent State, which tied a MAC season-high by committing 23 turnovers Tuesday against Northern Illinois University, coughed up the ball 14 times Saturday. Western Michigan, in turn, used those to score 22 points and got outrebounded on the offensive glass, 10-4.

Despite the fact that the Flashes were unable to snap their three game Mid-American Conference losing streak, Haut believes that he and the rest of the coaches can learn a lot from this loss that can help the team further down the road in league play. 

“The biggest takeaway from this game for us, as a staff, is that the team that was together and sharing the ball and in the huddles and leadership — that’s the team that we have to see the rest of the year,” he said.

Haut continued: “We went down 12 and everyone stayed together and that’s got to be the team that shows up every night, win or lose, for the rest of the season,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll start winning games and we’ll start going in the right direction.”

The Flashes will play next in the M.A.C. Center Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the University at Buffalo. 

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