Flashes triumph over Falcons with more M.A.C. Center magic

Richie Mulhall

To quote Yogi Berra, Major League Baseball legend and Hall-of-Famer, it was “déjà vu all over again” in the M.A.C. Center on Wednesday.

The Kent State men’s basketball team (13-11, 4-7 Mid-American Conference) was tied up 59-all with the Bowling Green Falcons (10-14, 4-7 MAC) with exactly three seconds left to play. It was Kent State’s possession.  Bowling Green was looking for a stop to send the game into overtime, and the Flashes were looking for a miracle shot to end the game.

Last week, Kent State defeated crosstown rival Akron 60-57 off a 3-point miracle shot from senior forward Darren Goodson that won the game.

Kent State fans were looking for that same magic Wednesday night against the Falcons, hoping lightning would strike yet again — and they did not go home disappointed.

With the game tied and teetering on the brink of overtime, Kent State inbounded the ball to sophomore guard Devareaux Manley, who immediately, — without even an inkling of hesitation, — launched a fade-away 3-pointer deep from the left corner of the basket.

Fans clung to the edge of their seats as Manley’s shot rattled around inside the rim for less than a split second and fell through the bottom of the net for the three.

The M.A.C. Center erupted as Kent State fans rose to their feet in excitement and Kent State’s bench players nearly stormed the court in exuberant celebration.

Kent State coach Rob Sendeoff and his coaching staff even had to refrain some of the bench players on the sideline from clearing the bench before the game ended in fear of a technical foul being called.

With only .9 seconds left on the clock, Kent State batted down a hail-mary pass from Bowling Green’s inbound, and the Flashes held on to win 62-61.

For Manley, his shot did not come as much of a surprise to him as it did to those in attendance. He said he knew the team needed to win, so when Manley was called upon to sink a shot that meant the difference between victory and overtime, Manley rose to the occasion and took his shot like “there was nothing to lose.”

“The whole game, I just wanted to play like I wanted to win; I didn’t have a conscience out there” Manley said. “I know coach [Senderoff] trusts me a lot, so I’m definitely glad that coach called my number and I could respond the right way and make the shot.”

Senderoff said there are times when Manley drives him crazy during games and practices, but he praised Manley’s mental fortitude, without which he could not have hit his game-winning shot.

“There were times [when Manley was a freshman and sophomore] when I was just ruthless on him because I didn’t know if he was ever gonna make it here as far as having the toughness to do it,” Senderoff said. “And he fought through, and I’ll give him a ton of credit for being able to make that shot coming off the bench knowing that he lost his starting spot.”

Manley and redshirt junior guard Derek Jackson were both instrumental in the Flashes’ win Wednesday night. Manley’s near-buzzer beater ended up being the highlight of the night, but if it weren’t for Jackson’s play throughout the whole game, the Flashes might not have been in such an exhilarating position to win.

Jackson, who has started every game for Kent State this season, came off the bench tonight and posted a career-high 25 points on an 8-11 shooting performance and 5-7 3-point shooting effort in what proved to be a monumental game for him.

“This was the first time Jackson didn’t start, and he responded the way I would have hoped he would, and I’m proud of him and happy for him that he played as well as he did,” Senderoff said.

With both Jackson and Brewer starting the game on the bench, the Flashes looked like a symphony in search of a conductor on offense.

Senderoff implemented a new starting lineup for the game but excluded Jackson and Brewer and included Devin Carter, a sophomore guard who has only played in 13 games this season. This was also the first time this season Carter was given the nod at the starting small forward position.

In the first four-plus minutes of the half, Kent State was out of control and playing too fast. They had committed four turnovers and missed all of their shot attempts, and suddenly there was a 13-point deficit before they even knew what hit them.

There was a real disconnect on the court with Jackson and Brewer on the bench, but when they finally got the call to jump in the game, Kent State heated up.

“Coach [Senderoff] said we came out flat and nobody was talking, so we tried to tell everyone to talk more, attack more, be more aggressive,” Jackson said. “We had a slow start, but we got it rolling after a while.”

After Jackson and Brewer checked in, the Flashes began putting pressure on the Falcons, which led to three turnovers and an 8-point swing after a three by Jackson, three-pointer from Manley and a steal and dunk combo from Jackson.

“I actually think that was the turning point, and that’s what started to rally us to fight back,” Jackson said.

Once Jackson got the ball rolling, he only got hotter from that point on. At the conclusion of the half, Jackson had 13 points, shot 4-5 from the field and drilled three shots from outside the perimeter. He would finish with a game-high 25 points on only 11 shots.

After Wednesday night’s win, the Flashes boosted their record to 13-11 and 4-7 in the MAC, while the Falcons dropped to 10-14 and 4-7 in the conference.

The Flashes will stay at home and return to the M.A.C. Center on Saturday evening to host the Central Michigan Chippewas (8-15, 1-10 MAC).

Saturday night’s contest is slated to begin at 6 p.m.

Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected].