Miami spoils Flashes’ Senior Night, shakes up MAC Tournament picture

Richie Mulhall

The Miami men’s basketball team came into Kent State’s Senior Night at the last home game of the regular season looking to avenge a 75-63 loss suffered at the hands of the Flashes on Feb. 19, and they did.

“We thought we were just gonna roll out the ball and beat them better because we beat them at their house easily, and they punched us in the mouth just like we punched them in the mouth,” said senior forward Darren Goodson, who was recognized before the game as part of Senior Night.

Despite a late second half push led by sophomore guard and reserve KK Simmons, the rally was too little too late for Kent State as the Redhawks defeated the Flashes 73-61 to spoil Senior Night and avoid a regular season sweep.

The Flashes (15-17, 7-10 MAC) have had their issues with consistency all year, and Tuesday night’s game really brought those issues to light.

Goodson spelled out Kent State’s main problem plainly and simply.

“Consistency is missing,” Goodson said. “That’s it.”

Senderoff reiterated Goodson comment, dumbfounded as to why the Flashes played so well in their previous 75-61 away victory over Ohio, but then so poorly in their home loss to Miami.

He, like many players on the roster, did not have an answer for it.

“We didn’t show up,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said after the loss. “It’s not easily explainable, we played a great game Saturday against an excellent team [in Ohio] and we didn’t show up today.”

Shooting, which often goes hand-in-hand with consistency for a three-point shooting team like Kent State, was once again the tale to another tragic conference loss for this struggling Kent State team.

The Flashes only shot 41.5 percent from the field and an even-worse 25 percent from three-point range. They only made 5 of their attempted 20 three-pointers.

Top three-point shooting guards and juniors Devareaux Manley and Derek Jackson were only 2-7 and 1-5 from outside the perimeter respectively, and starting junior guard Kris Brewer only had two points all night.

It’s hard to win games with eyesores like this on the stat sheet at the end of a game.

“We had eight guys have a bad game, and some of them I don’t think played very hard. I have much more of a problem with that.”

Miami upped the ante and shot almost a whole 11 percent better than Kent State, shooting 52 percent from the field.

The Redhawks’ three-point shooting, too, was phenomenal. All of their three-pointers came in the first half, and they were perfect.

Miami made 7-7 of their first-half three-pointers, a rare statistic to see considering that the Redhawks are second-to-last in the league in the three-point field goal percentage, connecting, on average, on just above 29 percent of their three-pointers.

“It’s deflating when you see them making three after three like that, but that’s our fault,” senior forward Mark Henniger said. “They were making buckets inside and hitting threes.”

The first half of Tuesday night’s contest set the tone for the entire game. The best word to describe the way the Flashes played in the first half was sloppy.

It was a blistering first half for the Redhawks and a frigid first half for the Flashes. Miami couldn’t miss and Kent State was the exact opposite.

The red-hot Redhawks jumped out to an early lead and kicked off Kent State’s Senior Night  with a 15-5 run.

Turnovers — a statistic that has been a thorn in the Flashes’ side all season long — also continued to haunt the Flashes. Kent State committed four turnovers in the opening five minutes of the contest and added four more just six minutes later.

Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff frustratingly looked on from the sidelines as Miami maneuvered fluently around the hardwood with and without the ball while the Flashes tried to force shots and passes that weren’t there. They aimlessly threw the ball all over the place, displaying “no energy” and “no life,” Senderoff said.

After numerous turnovers in the first half, the Flashes were slow to get back on defense, allowing the Redhawks 18 points in the paint and 19 points off turnovers.

Miami’s full-court press, something Senderoff and the Flashes knew they would have to deal with against Miami, put the pressure on Kent State’s inbound attempts and forced turnover after turnover.

Kent State committed a total of 12 turnovers in the first half, which was double the number Miami’s had.

“Turnovers [were] a complete joke, but it’s been all year, and that’s why we play great one day and then we play like this,” Senderoff said.

The team also struggled with transition baskets and could not make it back in transition to defend Miami’s offensive onslaught, regardless of whether Flashes’ possession was even successful or not.

After falling flat in the first half, Kent State came out more under control in the second half and competed better.

Simmons came in and provided his team with some energy with nine points off the bench, and after a steal by Simmons converted into a three-point play by Jackson, Kent State fans could feel a shift in momentum as Kent State slowly began to chop down Miami’s lead.

The run led by Simmons proved short-lived, though, and the Redhawks held on to win.

After all of Tuesday night’s MAC games, the MAC Tournament picture in regard to seeding is still up in the air. No one is sure yet what must happen in order for Kent State to get a first-round home game. Senderoff, Goodson and Henniger said all they can do is win the team’s last game of the season on the road this Friday against Akron and hope for the best.

Friday’s tipoff is at 7 p.m. inside J.A.R. Arena.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].