Juniors lift KSU men’s basketball to victory over Eastern Michigan


Photo courtesy of Eastern Michigan University.

Nick Shook

On a team led by four experienced seniors, it was Kent State’s junior class that made two final plays to secure a victory Wednesday.

Trailing by two, Flashes’ junior Randal Holt made a long-range 3-pointer to give Kent State a 59-58 lead with 23 seconds remaining in the game.

“At night, I dream about hitting shots like that,” Holt said. “I dream about putting daggers in teams and hitting game-winners. I shot it with confidence. No matter if I missed every shot in the game, I knew I was going to make it.”

“Randal has got incredible heart,” assistant coach Bobby Steinburg said. “He’s one of those guys, when the game is on the line he can hit big shots and came through tonight.”

While Holt’s dream scenario may have just been realized, the Flashes needed one more defensive stop to earn their 29th-straight victory over Mid-American Conference West division opponents.

Eastern Michigan’s Darrell Lampley, who finished the night with 18 points, took the ball from the top of the 3-point arc and drove down the center of the lane, where he was met by a group of Kent State defenders. As Lampley’s shot attempt left his hands, the Flashes’ junior forward Patrick Jackson blocked the shot and Kent State gained possession with 4.7 seconds left in the game.

“I knew [Lampley] wasn’t going to pass the ball and I had to help, so I stepped up and blocked the shot,” Jackson said.

“Pat Jackson [was] big,” Steinburg said. “Pat’s really athletic and got his hand on that and really saved the game. Lampley had been torching us. When he got past our first line of defense, it could have been tricky. Pat came up big.”

Flashes’ junior Chris Evans made three of four free throw attempts in the final 4.7 seconds of the game and the Flashes left Ypsilanti, Mich., with a 62-58 victory.

“Randal Holt hit a big three and Chris Evans came through with free throws, and I feel blessed to get out of this one alive,” Steinburg said.

Kent State started the game slowly and trailed by as many as nine points in the first half. Senior forward Justin Greene kept the Flashes in the game by scoring 11 of his 17 total points in the first half, and Kent State recovered just before halftime to take a 32-31 lead.

The second half began with another basket by Greene, but Eastern Michigan went on an 11-5 run to take a six-point lead. Baskets by senior guard Michael Porrini, Evans and Holt brought the Flashes back to tie the game at 44-44, and the score would remain close for the rest of the game.

Defense, which has been a focus of the Flashes’ coaching staff for much of the season, helped Kent State to its fifth-straight victory.

“We were able to guard when we needed to guard and hit a couple of big shots,” Steinburg said.

The Flashes trail division-leading Akron by two games and knew that a win Wednesday night was as important as any remaining game on the schedule.

“We emphasized before the game that we needed this win to keep us in the right direction,” Jackson said.

“The MAC East is so competitive this year,” Steinburg said. “Every team is good and every night we keep reminding our guys, this is another step toward a championship, so they all count big right now.”

Kent State improved to 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the MAC, and will host Ball State at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].