Flashes basketball ends regular season with win over Zips

Tim Dorst

Having lost its last five games against the Akron Zips, Kent State came into James A. Rhodes Arena with something to prove. With the Mid-American Conference regular season title already decided, the final game between the Flashes and the Zips was strictly for bragging rights.

Game highlights


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Kent State went into the game with one goal in mind and showed a sold-out crowd that records don’t matter in a rivalry game.

The Flashes (19-12, 9-7 MAC) came away with a 68-64 victory over the Zips (24-6, 14-2 MAC) Friday night, snapping a five-game losing streak against their biggest rival. Kent State also ends its regular season on a five-game winning streak heading into the MAC Tournament.

Junior forward Darren Goodson led the way with a game-high 19 points and eight rebounds for the Flashes, who found a way to stay one step ahead of the Zips for most of the night. Kent State led for a majority of the game and held an 18-point advantage at one point in the first half.

It was a huge win for the Flashes as they head into next week’s tournament, and head coach Rob Senderoff, who won his first game against Akron since becoming the team’s head coach, gives credit to the way the Flashes competed nonstop from start to finish.

“We played hard the whole way,” Senderoff said. “We didn’t necessarily play well in the second half, but we played hard. Every time Akron made a run at us, we found a way to respond.”

Akron struggled with its shooting from the floor without sophomore guard Alex Abreu in the lineup. Abreu, one of the Zips’ key offensive players, was suspended indefinitely Thursday after he was arrested and charged with possession and trafficking of marijuana.

Freshman Carmelo Betancourt started in place of Abreu, scored only five points in 16 minutes and left the game multiple times because of leg cramps. As a team, the Zips shot just 34 percent for the game and 6-for-27 from the 3-point line.

Trailing 6-2 in the first four minutes of the game, the Flashes went on a 14-3 run highlighted by Goodson and senior forward Chris Evans. Evans then helped put Kent State ahead by 11 points with an explosive alley-oop dunk off a lob pass from senior guard Randal Holt and a 3-pointer from the right side.

Holt, who scored 12 points in the game, said the team has made great strides in becoming and playing as a unit in the last few weeks.

“We’ve done a great job of coming together and finding our chemistry,” Holt said.

The Flashes went on another scoring run — this time a 15-3 run — and a 3-pointer and a driving layup by Holt had the Flashes up 36-18 with less than four minutes left in the first half. Kent State took a 40-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.

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Defensive pressure by the Flashes forced Akron into a scramble on offense. The Zips turned the ball over eight times in the first half, and the Flashes turned Akron’s mistakes into points on many occasions.

When the second half began, the Zips seemed to come out of the locker room with a renewed sense of energy as they ramped up their defensive aggression. Akron forced a pair of Kent State turnovers early in the period and managed to keep the game relatively close through the first 10 minutes of the half.

As the Zips’ fans in the arena began to come alive, the Flashes withstood the sudden shift in momentum and kept their lead at double digits as the half went on. Goodson continued his strong play from the first half as he converted on two tough layups underneath the basket for four of his 13 second-half points.

However, the Zips were not about to call it quits and began to make another late-game run, much like they did in their victory over the Flashes back in January. Center Zeke Marshall scored on a put-back dunk, and forward Demetrius Treadwell made a layup off an offensive rebound to cut the Flashes’ lead to seven.

The Flashes maintained their lead after a layup and two free throws by sophomore guard Kris Brewer, but back-to-back 3-pointers by guards Jake Kretzer and Reggie McAdams cut the margin to three points with 28 seconds left.

Akron was forced to foul Brewer again, and the sophomore calmly knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead back up to five. Kretzer and McAdams attempted two more 3-pointers, but neither fell and Holt iced the game at the foul line with two more free throws.

The Flashes turned the ball over 14 times in the game, which in most cases would have led to a loss. But Senderoff said his team was able to find a way to overcome its mistakes when it mattered.

“In our losses this season, our tendency has been to turn the ball over a lot in the second half,” Senderoff said. “For us to find a way to hold on when we turned the ball over 10 times and gave up 14 offensive rebounds in the second half is a testament to the toughness and the resolve of our guys.”

The toughness of Goodson and the rest of the team was enough to exceed the odds and defeat an Akron team that has had a record season thus far. Holt said Goodson’s play on the court adds a dynamic to the Flashes that wasn’t there when the season started.

“Darren Goodson has been great in the MAC season,” Holt said, “and with him playing the way he is, it takes us to a whole new level. Now we will go into the MAC tournament knowing it is win or go home.”

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