Men’s basketball celebrates senior night with victory over Bowling Green

Tim Dorst

Seniors Chris Evans, Randal Holt and Brian Frank set foot on the hardwood floor of the M.A.C. Center in front of their home crowd for the final time Tuesday night, knowing the men’s basketball team needed as many wins as it could get in the final week of the regular season.

The Flashes found themselves in a battle for the lead late in the second half, but a number of big plays by the seniors as well as the underclassmen ultimately proved to be the difference.

Kent State defeated Bowling Green 69-61 Tuesday in front of 2,853 to win its fourth straight game and clinch the fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament, which begins next week.

With the win — together with losses by Eastern Michigan and Buffalo — the Flashes will skip the first two rounds for the tournament and play their third round matchup Thursday. To Holt and the rest of the seniors, securing the No. 4 seed on such an emotional night made this game all the more special.

“This was definitely a big win for us, especially on senior night,” Holt said. “We definitely wanted to go out with a win. I’m thankful for my teammates going out there and giving it their all and for this doing this for me, [Evans] and [Frank]. Even more importantly, we kept our winning streak alive.”

Holt, Evans and Frank all received their framed jerseys in a ceremony before the opening tip off as each player walked onto the court with their families to be honored in front of a near-capacity crowd. Holt, the only four-year senior on the team, said his career with the Flashes went by surprisingly fast.

“It seems like yesterday I was a freshman,” Holt said. “It’s just been great at Kent State. The people, our fans, the coaching staff, and my teammates; I’m just thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given here.”

Evans helped get senior night off on the right foot for the Flashes with a turnaround jumper in the first minute of the game. Kent State opened up a 14-2 lead early on behind five straight points by Holt while stifling the Bowling Green offense at every turn.

The Flashes (18-12, 8-7 MAC) extended their lead to 15 points later in the first half with a quick 7-0 run, punctuated by a breakaway windmill dunk by Evans that brought the M.A.C. Center crowd to its feet. The lead stretched even further to 17 points as it appeared the Flashes had gained for control over the Falcons on both ends of the floor.

However, Bowling Green found ways to cut into the lead as the first half came to a close. The Falcons put together an 11-0 run that included back-to-back shots by forward Chauncey Orr and went into halftime down only six points.

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said the Flashes losing their lead was a result of many bad possessions and poor defense over the course of a few minutes.

“We stopped guarding in transition first of all,” Senderoff said. “We got a little loose with the ball, and [the Falcons] made some plays out of it. We certainly didn’t go into halftime the way we would’ve liked to.”

The run by the Falcons continued throughout the second half, and Bowling Green erased the deficit entirely by taking a 58-57 lead with 7:29 left in the game on a dunk by forward Craig Sealey.

After two free throws by Holt gave the Flashes the lead, junior forward Mark Henniger took a pass from Evans and dunked it over Falcons forward Spencer Parker, drawing a foul in the process and making the free throw.

Henniger came back down the court on the very next possession and converted on a difficult layup while drawing another foul. Henniger missed the free throws, but the sudden spurt by the junior had Kent State in the lead by six.

Henniger said he drew some extra motivation from knowing how much this game meant to the three seniors on the squad.

“We all know how hard Chris, Randal and Brian work,” Henniger said. “You could see the team came out in the first half with a lot of energy. We all wanted to get this win for them going out, just because they’ve done so much for us.”

Bowling Green cut the lead down to four with less than two minutes remaining, but sophomore guard Kris Brewer beat the shot clock with a short jumper in the lane to take the momentum back for the Flashes as the final seconds ticked away.

Evans made his last game in the M.A.C. Center memorable in his own way by nearly recording the first triple-double in Kent State basketball history. The senior forward finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high seven assists, leaving some lasting memories for his career.

“I’m blessed that I’ve been able to do some great things here at Kent State,” Evans said. “I met some great people and have some lifelong friendships with teammates and coaching staff. So I’ve had some great times here, and now we definitely want to keep it rolling.”

The Flashes will now take their four-game winning streak into James A. Rhodes Arena to face the rival Akron Zips in the last regular season game before the MAC Tournament. Tip off is schedule for 7 p.m. Friday.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].