Flashes basketball falls to Akron 84-75


Junior guard Randal Holt attempts a shot against the Akron defense at Rhodes Arena on Jan. 21. Kent fell to Akron 84-75. Photo by Brian Smith.

Nick Shook

For the third straight game, it was a tale of two halves for Kent State.

Akron (12-7, 4-1 Mid-American Conference) overcame a poor first-half to go on an 18-7 run en route to an 84-75 victory over Kent State (12-6, 2-3 MAC) Saturday night in front of 5,525 at James A. Rhodes Arena. The Zips shot 61.8 percent from the floor and tightened up defensively, but the key moment arrived with 12:50 remaining in the game and Kent State leading, 55-49.

Akron’s Brett McClanahan knocked down a 3-pointer in transition, which set off a run of four-straight 3-pointers by the Zips that gave them their first lead since 3:55 remaining in the first half. Quincy Diggs made two of the four 3-pointers and helped swing the momentum back in Akron’s favor.

“That was the turning point of the game, along with Q’s (Diggs’) two threes,” Akron forward Nick Harney said. “I think in a game like this it’s all about momentum.”

While Diggs helped Akron take a lead that they would not surrender in the final 11:02, it was Harney that provided the finishing touches to Akron’s fourth Mid-American Conference victory. Harney proved why he is one of the MAC’s best second-half players by scoring 19 of his 21 points in the final period of play, including 10 of the Zips’ final 20 points.

“I think I just reached that point that every player has where you’ve just competed for so long and the tempo is so high and you just play your heart out,” Harney said.

“I think our guys did a good job of hanging in there, staying composed, and the crowd really got behind us and that helped us,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said.

The Flashes played a solid first half, shot 47.2 percent from the floor, recorded nine steals and held an eight-point lead at halftime, but for the third-straight game, allowed a second half collapse. Similar to their game Wednesday against Ohio, Kent State again struggled to recover from a substantial run by an opponent and never regained the lead.

“It was very deflating,” Kent State junior guard Randal Holt said. “But in the same sense, we got open looks ourselves and we just didn’t hit them. Credit Akron for hitting big shots. Right now we’re just trying to find a way to win big games down the stretch.”

“Kent’s a tough team,” Akron forward Chauncey Gilliam said. “They’re tough guys and you always know that they’re going to bounce back. We just have to keep playing hard and try to keep the intensity high.”

The Flashes were led in scoring by Holt, who was a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc in the first half. Holt finished the game with an impressive 27 points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to earn a victory for Kent State. Holt, who was clearly the biggest offensive threat on the floor for the Flashes, played 38 of the game’s 40 total minutes.

“I’m proud of (Holt’s) effort,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “He played very, very well. There was probably a time during that run that I needed to find a way to get him an open shot, but he played great.”

Kent State’s senior forward Justin Greene entered foul trouble early in the game and struggled to find open shots against Akron’s 7-foot center, Zeke Marshall. Greene managed to finish with 11 points, but made only five of 13 attempts. The reigning MAC Player of the Year was frustrated with how he and his teammates have performed in the latter portions of their last three games and went as far as to question the heart of his team after their loss to Akron.

“Down the stretch, we haven’t been guarding. That’s all its been,” Greene said. “We didn’t fight back, man. That’s something that’s in our hearts and has nothing to do with basketball. That’s all heart, and if we don’t get that together, it’s going to be a long season.”

Greene reflected upon his career at Kent State when describing how it felt to question the heart of an experienced team.

“It is strange, because I’m not used to that here,” Greene said. “The last two years, we’ve been winning on toughness and heart. In the last two games on the road, we haven’t shown that.”

Greene believes that his team can pick up their play and get back to where they envisioned they would be at this point in the season, but not without the necessary work in practice and games. Kent State will face three opponents from the MAC West, beginning Wednesday when the Flashes host Northern Illinois at 7 p.m.

“We’ve just got to get back in the gym, practice and get after each other,” Greene said. “If we do that and get back to Kent State basketball, we’re going to be fine.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].