Flashes fall to Akron in yet another dramatic rivalry game

Richie Mulhall

Animosity was in the air Friday night as the Kent State-Akron game at J.A.R. Arena went straight down to the wire and had everything you might expect from an intense rivalry game: a loud, hostile home crowd, fast pace, lot of energy and countless back-and-forth moments.

Not to mention a nail-biting conclusion. Nothing makes a rivalry game more exciting, though, than a wild, thrilling finish.

With just 28 seconds left in regulation, Kent State junior guard Devareaux Manley, who spent half of the second half sitting on the bench with four fouls, made his reappearance into the game count by sinking a three-pointer deep from beyond the arc to put the Flashes within one point of Akron’s lead. The Zips were ahead 55-54 with a one-point advantage.

Akron had a chance to put the Flashes away before the game even got this close, but the Zips missed five consecutive foul shots in the closing minutes.

Akron senior forward Demetrius Treadwell missed his fair of foul shots down the stretch, but made just enough to seal the Flashes fate and lift Akron (20-11, 12-6 Mid-American Conference) over Kent State (16-15, 7-11 MAC) 58-54 in yet another epic battle between these two longtime MAC foes.

“Really competitive game, and in a lot of ways it was well-played,” Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said after the game. “It was tough to score in, but it was highly competitive and I’ll give [Akron] credit cause they made a couple plays down the stretch that won them the game.”

Treadwell, whom Kent State rendered nearly scoreless in the first half, owned the glass in the second half and pounded the ball in the paint to score 12 points in the final 10 minutes of the game.

He never forgot Kent State senior forward Darren Goodson’s game-winning shot he hit against the Zips earlier this season.

It was still in the back of the 235-pound big man’s mind, and it made him want to win badly.

“The faces (Goodson) made, the shot he made and just how electric the arena was after he did all that, it really made me wanna come back and want to beat him,” Treadwell said. “I wanted to come back and beat him more than ever.”

The 6-foot-7 “tree” (as he calls himself) made good on his word to avenge Akron’s previous loss and withstood the pressure of the foul line long enough to defeat the Flashes.

“We had a couple of empty possessions that we probably could have scored on,” Senderoff said.

With a little over four minutes to play, Kent State had a scoring drought in which they did not score again until Manley drained his three with 28 seconds left.

Manley launched another three ball at the end of the game to try to give his team the buzzer beater victory, but it rattled around the rim and Spicer batted the ball out of bounds.

“They didn’t lock us up on that play, we just missed an open one, and sometimes that happens,” Senderoff said. “He’s the best shooter on our team, and I’d want him to shoot it 1,000 out of 1,000 times, it just didn’t go in.”

In the first half, the Flashes were able to overcome an unwelcoming Akron crowd and coasted into the break with a secure 32-27 lead over the Zips.

Boo’s echoed throughout the capacity crowd of the J.A.R. Arena and bouts of pushing and shoving ensued just before the half as Kent State stuck it to Akron faithful in the first half of Friday’s contest.

Akron was down after the brief intermission, but it started the second half like any home team would do: with a rally.

Kent State tried to silence the capacity crowd with charges to the rim by redshirt junior guard Jackson and a three from Thomas, but the tide quickly began to turn in Akron’s favor.

Akron heated up and pushed their lead to six, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and drilled three of their attempted eight three-pointers in the second half.

The Flashes, on the other hand, shot a meager 21.4 percent on 8-of-37 shooting and 15.4 percent from long range.

“They guarded us well in the second half, they amped up their intensity level and we struggled to score,” Senderoff said.

Kent State ran into a number of scoring droughts and fell behind in the second.

The team also ran into foul trouble down the stretch as senior forwards Darren Goodson and Mark Henniger, who appeared off all night, fouled out and Manley played very limited minutes in the second half, toeing the line with four fouls.

“Dev was in foul trouble the whole night, especially in the first half,” Senderoff said. “This is probably the first time he’s had two fouls in the first half that I can remember that I felt the need to put him back in cause I thought we needed to score. He didn’t play as many minutes as he normally would.”

Sophomore guard Kellon Thomas tried to lead his team back into the game with a team-high 14 points and continued to push the pace even though Kent State’s lead was faltering.

Sophomore forward Kalliq Spicer was right behind Thomas with 10 points, the most he has ever scored in a Kent State uniform. Spicer, who has struggled this season with finishing strong at the rim, connected on three thunderous dunks.

Despite Kent State’s efforts to battle back from behind, but in the end, the Zips’ home court advantage and momentum proved too much for the Flashes to handle.

“Both teams compete hard when we play each other, and they’re good, and when we play hard, we’re good,” Senderoff said. “Tonight they were a little bit better, they were four points better. We’ve got some work to do, but hopefully we’ll be able to face them again.”

In regard to the MAC Tournament picture, Akron secured a first-bye with its 20th overall win of the season and 12th victory in the MAC, while Kent State will go on the road Monday to face an opponent yet to be determined.

Although the Flashes would have liked a first-round home game to kick off the tourney, Senderoff said he is confident in his team’s road abilities.

“In a lot of ways, we’ve played better on the road than we have at home in league play,” Senderoff said. “I know we’ve competed much harder on the road for the most part, so we gotta try to get to Cleveland and see what happens.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].