Men’s basketball loses heartbreaker to Akron

Tim Dorst

Kent State and Akron clashed once again Saturday afternoon at the M.A.C Center in Kent, and the back-and-forth battle between the two teams created an exciting atmosphere for the 6,313 fans in attendance.

The Flashes answered the Zips nearly shot for shot as the game whittled down to its final minutes, but by the end of the afternoon the Zips just proved too much.

Akron (13-4, 4-0 Mid-American Conference) completed a comeback victory and closed out the game late in the second half for a 71-67 win over Kent State (11-7, 2-2 MAC), the Zips’ fifth straight victory over the Flashes.

“Obviously this is a tough loss for us,” Flashes coach Rob Senderoff said. “ We played very hard and competed the way we want to compete for the most part. Akron did a great job on the offensive glass in the second half, and they made some big plays when they needed to.”

Kent State held a 10-point lead at halftime and appeared to be controlling the game on both ends of the floor, but the Akron shifted the momentum in the second half with energetic play and timely shots from the perimeter.

Akron out-rebounded the Flashes 44-34 and grabbed a game-high 22 offensive rebounds after Kent State controlled the offensive glass in the first half. Senior forward Chris Evans said the difference in rebounds ultimately led to the difference in the game.

“They killed us on the glass,” Evans said. “If we don’t rebound the ball, most the time we’re going to lose. We need to do a better job rebounding the basketball, especially when they have such a big frontline.”

Evans scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds for the Flashes, while forward Demetrius Treadwell led the Zips with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

After two free throws by sophomore guard Kris Brewer made it a three-point lead for the Flashes, the Zips got back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Alex Abreu and Brian Walsh to take a 66-63 lead with a minute and a half remaining in the second half.

Brewer responded after a Kent State timeout with a three of his own to tie the game once again. Akron gained the lead back with two free throws by senior center Zeke Marshall and held that lead for the rest of the contest.

Senderoff said the end result of the game could’ve been very different had the Flashes gotten a few more stops down the stretch and a few more plays in the second half.

“It seemed to me that we came up with a lot of the 50-50 balls in the first half when it was loose, and they came up with a lot of the 50-50 balls in the second half when it was loose,” Senderoff said. “Then they made the plays that they needed to make, and we didn’t. It’s pretty simple.”

Kent State surged into the lead in the latter portion of the first half with a run sparked by junior forward Darren Goodson. With the Flashes down by four points, Goodson made a strong drive to the rim took contact from Zips center Pat Forsythe and completed the difficult layup with the foul.

Goodson converted on the 3-point play and followed up with a 3-pointer from the left wing to give Kent State a 27-24 lead with 4:11 left in the first half. The Flashes led 36-26 at the halftime break behind a 16-2 run and Goodson’s 14 first half points.

“I was just trying to find a way to help my team win,” Goodson said. “It wasn’t good enough though. It just wasn’t good enough.”

Goodson went scoreless in the second half and fouled out with 28 seconds left in the game.

The Flashes held onto their lead early in the second half, complemented by 3-pointers from Brewer and sophomore guard Devareaux Manley, and took a 46-37 advantage at the 12:50 mark. Akron proceeded to go on a 14-4 run capped off by a jumper by forward Chauncey Gilliam, giving the Zips the 51-50 lead.

Senderoff gave credit to the Zips for their playmaking ability down the stretch.

“They were very determined, and we didn’t match that when we needed to match,” Senderoff said. “We kept it close and we made plays, but they made two huge plays when they needed to make them. You have to give them credit for that.”

A loss such as this may be difficult for a team to come back from, but Senderoff is confident that the Flashes will move on from this and be prepared for their next game Wednesday at Bowling Green.

“This is not easy to bounce back from,” Senderoff said. “Our guys were emotionally invested and we hadn’t played this well at home in a long time. We played very hard, and we still didn’t win. But our kids are extremely resilient, and I expect them to be resilient here as well.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].