Men’s basketball suffers heartbreaking loss to Ohio Bobcats


Ohio University wins the Golden Flashes in a 69-68 on Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center. Photo by YOLANDA LI

Tim Dorst

With the men’s basketball team trailing 69-68 in the waning seconds of Saturday’s game against Ohio, senior forward Chris Evans rebounded a missed 3-point attempt by Bobcats guard D.J. Cooper and passed the ball off to senior guard Randal Holt.

Holt drove the length of the court in about six seconds, speeding past a couple of Ohio defenders into the middle of the lane. The senior got himself in position for an open floater five feet away from the basket, a shot that Holt has made many times before.

The ball teasingly hit the back of the rim and bounced off, and the buzzer sounded. The Flashes came that close to defeating the Bobcats at the M.A.C. Center Saturday night but ultimately fell short, 69-68.

“It was a high-percentage shot that I take and make a lot of times,” Holt said. “ It was just tough luck. It bounced off the rim this time.”

Kent State (11-9, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) lost its third-straight game and second-straight weekend home game against teams in the top tier of the MAC East Division. After losing to Akron and Ohio in consecutive Saturdays, Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff said the Flashes put themselves in a position to win both games.

“We had two good teams come in here, and we had a chance to win,” Senderoff said. “Our kids competed very hard. Obviously it’s not easy when you lose games like this. But we’ll bounce back and that’s obviously the challenge for us, we have to make sure we bounce back for the next game.”

The Bobcats (15-5, 6-0 MAC) escaped with their seventh consecutive victory in head coach Jim Christian’s first game at the M.A.C. Center as an opposing coach. Christian, who was Kent State’s head coach from 2002 to 2006, said he was very impressed with the way the Flashes performed and how Senderoff had them ready.

“I’m proud of those guys because of how hard I know they worked,” Christian said. “They were unbelievably prepared. Rob did an unreal job getting his team ready to play after two losses. I know how good their staff is, and I think that if they continue to give Rob and his staff support, then they’re going to have the program at the level they want to be.”

The Flashes held a 36-32 lead at halftime after Holt closed out the first half with a three pointer at the buzzer. Holt scored 14 points on the night and made 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

Ohio began making a comeback early on in the second half, capitalizing on a few Kent State turnovers and turning the Flashes’ mistakes into points. Holt said the Bobcats were able to make adjustments during the half and came out of the locker room with a renewed energy.

“They made adjustments, and they turned up their pressure,” Holt said. “They kept the ball in D.J. Cooper’s hands and he made plays for them down the stretch. They turned up their intensity a little bit.”

Cooper scored seven-straight points at one point in the half as he led the Bobcats on a 14-2 run. A mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer put the Bobcats ahead 53-46 at the 11:29 mark in the second half.

Senderoff said while many people will look only at their final few plays, the unforced turnovers by the Flashes earlier in the half were just as significant in the team falling behind as far as it did.

“To start the second half, we had about four in a row,” Senderoff said. “It’s hard when the game’s at the end and it’s a one-point game, you can always look at the last play or last shot, but there are so many possessions in between those. That’s where the game gets lost.”

Ohio led 60-52 with 7:46 remaining in the second half when Kent State began storming back. 3-pointers by senior forward Chris Evans and sophomore guard Devareaux Manley highlighted an 11-0 run that swung the Flashes into a three-point advantage.

Evans, who finished with 20 points and seven assists to lead the Flashes, made a layup while being fouled and converted on his free throw to give Kent State a 63-60 lead with 4:43 to go.

“We definitely had our momentum shift and went on a run,” Evans said. “You just can never get too comfortable because when you play a team like Ohio, they have guys that can make plays. They were able to make more plays down the stretch than we were.”

The combination of Cooper and forward Reggie Keely kept the Bobcats in the game as the two teams exchanged baskets. Cooper led the way for Ohio with 23 points and five assists, and Keeley scored seven of his 20 points in the last few minutes.

Cooper than made two free throws to give Ohio a one-point lead that would ultimately be the deciding factor.

“D.J. Cooper is an excellent player,” Senderoff said. “He made some huge plays and obviously Keely finished them off. But Cooper really initiated almost all of that.”

Senderoff added that he felt his team showed tremendous toughness and heart, and while the team may have played hard the entire game, he said that is only one part of the equation.

“When you’re playing these games against really good teams, you have to play really hard, and we did that,” Senderoff said. “But you also have to play well. We made an unbelievable comeback in the second half, but we had so many unforced turnovers. You have to play well, play smart and play hard. We did one of the three.”

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].