Kent State’s late-game defensive woes continue against George Mason

Nick Buzzelli

For the second consecutive game, the Kent State men’s basketball team held a lead with under a minute remaining in a Gulf Coast Showcase contest. And, for the second consecutive game, the Flashes couldn’t secure the win.

Despite leading George Mason University by one with 31 seconds left, sophomore Jalen Avery — a career 54.5 percent foul shooter — missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Patriots (2-3) a three-pointer from sophomore Otis Livingston II and two free throws by senior Marquise Moore to squeak by Kent State (3-2), 79-75, Tuesday afternoon at Germain Arena in Estero, Florida.

Both teams matched each other shot-for-shot in the first half, with neither school able to build more than a six-point lead during the first 20 minutes of play.

Trailing, 54-52, at the 13:49 mark of the second half, Kent State used a 12-4 run, capped off by a jump shot from senior Deon Edwin to take a six-point advantage, its largest lead of the contest.

A jumper from sophomore Jaire Grayer nine minutes later put the Patriots up four, but a pair of free throws by Edwin and 1-2 by Avery put the Flashes up one with under three minutes left.

Kent State then expanded its lead to three, courtesy of junior Desmond Ridenour’s 18-foot jump shot with 1:48 remaining. But a turnover by Ridenour on the ensuing possession and Avery’s subsequent missed free throw ultimately sealed the win for George Mason.

Edwin finished with 20 points on a 7-13 shooting performance, while fellow senior Jimmy Hall recorded 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes on the floor.

“Those guys are playing pretty well,” head coach Rob Senderoff told Kent State Athletics. “But we’ve got to do a better job defensively and rebounding the ball —and that’s everyone. They are certainly a part of that, too, and they are scoring the ball well. But we need more.”

The Flashes will finish play in the Gulf Coast Showcase Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. against Wofford College, a team coming off of losses to the University of Vermont and Bradley University in the eight-team tournament.

“We didn’t hope to play in this one (the seventh place game), but that’s where we are right now,” Senderoff said. “We’re just going to have to play well tomorrow, just like any game. There’s a fine line between being successful and not, and we’ve got to cross that line.”

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