Men’s basketball routs Miami for third straight win

Tim Dorst

With many teams in the Mid-American Conference still competing for the coveted fourth seed in the MAC Tournament, Kent State needs to earn some key wins with only a handful of games remaining on the regular season schedule.

The Flashes certainly helped their cause Saturday with a win that was never in question.

Kent State ran away with a 78-58 victory over Miami Saturday afternoon to earn its third straight win and even up its conference record.

If the conference tournament started today, the Flashes (17-12, 7-7 MAC) would have sole possession of the fourth seed as they now hold tiebreakers over the Redhawks and fellow East Division rival Buffalo.

The Flashes used a second-half surge to pull away from the Redhawks, outscoring the home team 41-25 in the half. Head coach Rob Senderoff said it was great for the team in get a win on the road in March just more than a week away from the tournament.

“I’m proud of the way we played defense in the second half, ” Senderoff said. “Obviously we weren’t as good defensively in the first half. But we shot the ball well from outside and from the foul line. So it was great to get rolling in the month of March.”

The Flashes put on one of their best shooting displays of the season, making 13-of-26 from beyond the 3-point arc and finishing the game shooting 52 percent from the field. Senior forward Chris Evans led the way for the Flashes with 21 points, six rebounds and three steals.

Kent State never trailed in the game, but the Redhawks managed to keep the score close throughout the first half. The Flashes opened up an eight-point lead with three minutes left in the first, but six straight points by forward Jon Harris brought the Redhawks back within two points. Miami guard Allen Roberts finished off a 3-point play to end the half, and the Flashes entered halftime with a 37-33 lead.

“The end score was not indicative of the game,” Senderoff said. “In the last one [against Miami], we spread it out early and then traded baskets down the stretch. This one was tight. It was a four-point game at halftime. It got close and then we got a big spurt.”

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Evans and sophomore guard Devareaux Manley pushed the Flashes’ lead to 12 within the first six minutes of the second half. But Miami made an effort to fight back into the game, and a two-handed dunk by forward Will Felder on a fast break helped cut the deficit to six and forced a Kent State timeout.

Senior guard Randal Holt made one of his game-high five 3-pointers to put Kent State back up by nine before Evans pitched in to broaden the lead further. After converting on a pair of free throws, Evans stole the ball away from Harris and led the fast break before finishing with a right-handed tomahawk slam.

Defensively, the Flashes held Miami to just 32 percent shooting in the second half, after the Redhawks shot 60 percent in the first half. Kent State also outrebounded the Redhawks 30-24.

The Flashes continued to extend their lead later in the second half and never allowed the Redhawks a chance to make it a close game. Another 3-pointer by Manley, who scored 12 points off the bench, was followed closely by sophomore guard Kris Brewer throwing an alley-oop pass to Evans, who dunked it with two hands. Holt scored five of his 18 points in the last two minutes of the game to ultimately put the game out of reach.

Holt said getting a win on Miami’s home court was significant for him after losing three straight games on the road to the Redhawks.

“On a personal level, it was big win for me because I’ve had a lot of frustrating games here,” Holt said. “It means a lot to get a win here in my senior season. This was also a big win for us. The most important thing is it keeps our winning streak alive and keeps us playing better basketball going into the tournament.”

The Flashes come home again for another conference matchup against the Bowling Green Falcons, scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the M.A.C. Center.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].