Kent State men’s basketball’s season ends against USC Upstate

Nick Shook

If Kent State had any desire to be elsewhere, it was evident Thursday night.

South Carolina Upstate, the Flashes’ opponent in the first round of the Tournament, took advantage of Kent State’s lackadaisical approach and forced 15 first-half turnovers. The Spartans scored early and often, and took a 40-22 lead into halftime.

“I’ve got to give them a lot of credit because they deserve it,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “At the same time, you look at some of the turnovers we had, I don’t know that we were into it mentally.”

The Flashes struggled from the beginning of Thursday night’s game in Spartanburg, S.C., fell behind early and never recovered. USC Upstate, hosting its first-ever postseason basketball game, took advantage of the opportunity and outplayed Kent State to a 73-58 victory over the Flashes.

“We tried our best as a coaching staff to let our team know that these guys were good,” Senderoff said. “On top of letting them know that they were good, we also wanted to make sure that they know that this was their first postseason in Division I, and these guys were going to come guns blazing. Obviously, I didn’t do a good job of getting that message through because we looked a little shell-shocked early.”

The Flashes didn’t score for the first 4:10 of the game and managed only eight points in the first 8:29. Kent State made 40.9 percent of its shots, but committed 15 turnovers in the first half. The Spartans took advantage of Kent State’s mistakes and entered halftime with a surprising, yet comfortable 18-point lead over the Flashes.

“Great job by USC Upstate,” Senderoff said. “[It was] the most turnovers we had on the year tonight…they played incredibly hard. It was a good atmosphere, obviously it’s a small gym and it was their first time in postseason.”

The second half was much more successful for Kent State, as the Flashes cut the Spartans’ lead to as few as eight points with 11:43 remaining. But a questionable foul call on Flashes’ senior guard Michael Porrini on the following possession stopped Kent State’s momentum. The Spartans went on a 10-1 run to extend their lead back to 17, and Kent State couldn’t recover.

“We had cut it under 10, and I thought we had a chance to make a run,” Senderoff said. “They made some big plays at that point, and had they not made them and we were able to get them even tighter, it might have ended up being a game.”

The final 8:20 of the game was a frustrating end to what was a disappointing 2011-12 season for Kent State. Missed layups and turnovers filled the final minutes of what became the final game in a Kent State uniform for the Flashes’ four seniors.

“They played incredibly hard and really, really wanted to win,” Senderoff said. “It’s a tribute to them and their coaches and their players. As for us, it was one of our worst nights of the year, but they had a lot to do with that.”

Senior forward Justin Greene finished his Kent State career with a 12 point, six rebound performance, but much like the rest of his team, couldn’t keep from committing mistakes and led the team with seven turnovers. Porrini finished the game with eight points, three assists and two steals. Senior guard Carlton Guyton finished with five points, three assists and three rebounds.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].