Fouls plague Flashes in heartbreaking 81-78 loss

Ian Flickinger

Much has been made of the Flashes’ recent struggles shooting the ball, but there was another issue in Sunday night’s nail-biter — fouls.

The Flashes (11-8, 2-4 MAC) lost a close one to a strong Toledo squad (17-2, 5-1 MAC) that has now won five games in a row.  

The Flashes, led by senior forward Darren Goodson’s 17 points and six rebounds, battled all game before the Rockets, led by guard Justin Drummond’s 15 points, pulled away as the buzzer sounded.  Coach Rob Senderoff was optimistic about the game’s final result.

“Tonight was a great game. Unfortunately, there were a couple of plays down the stretch that we needed to make,” Senderoff said in a post-game press conference. “I’m proud of our guys with how hard we competed. Toledo is a very good team. They came back over the last five to six minutes and made some plays they needed to make. There’s a reason they are 17-2.”

Toledo, led by a trio of veteran guards — Rian Pearson, Justin Drummond and Julius “Juice” Brown — outlasted a scrappy Flash defensive unit that held them to just 45.6 percent shooting and a mere 20 percent from three.

The Rockets have lost only two games this season. One was to perennial powerhouse and 16th-ranked Kansas and the other was to Western Michigan. Toledo is currently first in the MAC standings.

Kent State played a strong first half and went into the intermission down only one point, 36-37. Although Toledo led throughout much of the first half, the Flashes put together a strong push in the final minutes to cut the lead down to one. But the team’s early foul trouble proved too costly as the game progressed, and even a strong Kent shooting performance, a problem in recent games, couldn’t overcome it.

Kent State had nearly twice as many personal fouls as Toledo, 29-15, which led to an additional 25 free throw opportunities for the Rockets.

The Flashes came out of halftime firing, making 54.8 percent of their shots in the second half and leading the Rockets 63-57 with nine minutes to play.

But the disparity from the free-throw line proved to be too much for Kent State, and the Rockets returned over and over again to the charity stripe as the game went on.

“We did the best we could to keep them out of the lane, I thought we did a good job of that but obviously fouled a little too much,” said Senderoff.

The Rockets wisely held the ball the majority of the shot clock in the game’s closing minutes, forcing Kent State to repeatedly send them to the line. Kent guard Derek Jackson kept it close, nailing two three-pointers to make it interesting, but the Flashes had simply run out of time.

Senderoff said a bright spot was forward Khaliq Spicer’s performance, who got the start.

“I’m going to continue with that and see how these guys continue to compete. Khaliq had four blocked shots tonight and I thought played really well. So we will continue with that lineup for now.”

Kent State has a two-game home stand coming up, with games against Northern Illinois on Wednesday and Akron on Saturday.

Contact Ian Flickinger at [email protected].