KSU men’s basketball learns from 80-73 loss as MAC play continues

Nick Shook

With only five games left in the regular season and first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division still two games out of reach, Kent State could not afford to lose another conference game.

Fortunately for the Flashes, Saturday’s 80-73 loss to the College of Charleston was a game with very little significance in the team’s regular season title hopes.

“This loss really didn’t mean anything toward our schedule,” senior guard Michael Porrini said. “It doesn’t bump us out of second place in the MAC.”

 “It’s a non-conference game so we’re not going to dwell on it,” Flashes’ senior forward Justin Greene said. “But we’ll take the mistakes we made in this game and learn for the next game.”

The visiting Cougars recovered from an early first half deficit and took a 19-point lead in the second half as the Flashes failed to make any of their first 18 3-point attempts. Kent State did show some resilience, however, and came within two points of tying the score in the final minutes of the game.

“I think there’s some positives in the fact that we were down 19 points with nine minutes to go and it was a two-point game with 1:54 to go,” Flashes’ head coach Rob Senderoff said. “We didn’t quit and competed incredibly hard for that time period. I don’t think that’s easy to do when you’re down 19.”

Kent State’s comeback attempt was led by effective shooting from junior guard Randal Holt and senior guards Carlton Guyton and Porrini. Holt made three consecutive 3-pointers to bring the Flashes within 10 points, and both Guyton and Porrini made important shots from behind the 3-point arc to help the Flashes outscore Charleston 18-1 in just over five minutes.

“Once we started to make some shots, it lifted our defensive energy and then we got some steals and were able to get back in the game,” Senderoff said. “We were just a play or two away from maybe being able to take the lead.”

The Flashes were unable to complete the comeback, though, as they missed multiple shot attempts when trailing by just two points. Kent State was forced to foul, and Charleston’s Antwaine Wiggins made 3-of-4 free throw attempts to secure a victory for the Cougars.

“If we had taken the lead it probably would have been tough for them to get it back,” Senderoff said. “But they made a couple plays down the stretch that they needed to, we missed a couple of shots down the stretch when we needed to make them and they get out of here with a win.”

“We got the shots that we wanted — shots that we’re normally making,” Holt said. “We just didn’t finish them.”

Even in defeat, Holt and Porrini were still confident in their team, ready to correct their mistakes and move on to Miami, the Flashes’ next opponent.

 “There’s a ton of positives you can take from the game,” Holt said. “We fell short in the end. We kind of didn’t have enough gas to get over the hump, but we showed a lot of effort fighting back from a 19-point deficit. Hopefully we just come ready on Tuesday to get the win.”

In order for Kent State to record another conference victory, it will need the help of senior forward Justin Greene, the Flashes’ leading scorer. The 6-foot-8 senior missed Saturday’s game due to an ankle sprain, but barring a major setback, will be ready to play Tuesday. Greene was unsettled by being forced to watch Saturday’s loss from the bench.

“It was real tough,” Greene said. “I felt like being a big brother and somebody was out there taking advantage of your little brother and you can’t do anything about it.”

Miami features one of the MAC’s best in forward Julian Mavunga. In the teams’ first meeting in 2011-12, Mavunga scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, but it was Greene who finished with 23 points, six rebounds and a victory. However, Greene doesn’t want the focus of the game to be on him and Mavunga.

“It’s [Mavunga’s] home crowd, so I have to make sure I keep my composure and not get in a one-on-one battle because it’s not about that,” Greene said. “It’s about Kent State and Miami.”

Kent State trails Akron in the MAC East Division standings by two games, and with only four conference games left, the Flashes want and will likely need to win the rest of their games to have a chance of winning its third-consecutive MAC East regular season title.

“It’s very important,” Greene said. “We need these two road games. We’re going to take them one game at a time. It’s not going to be easy. They’ve got some good players and [Miami’s] Charlie Coles is a great coach. It’s definitely going to be a really big week.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @NickShookDKS.