Flashes men’s basketball fights back, defeats Miami 71-67

Kent State senior forward Justin Greene keeps the ball away from Miami as he scores on Wednesday, Jan. 11. The Flashes beat the Redhawks 71-67. Photo by Kristin Bauer.

Kent State senior forward Justin Greene keeps the ball away from Miami as he scores on Wednesday, Jan. 11. The Flashes beat the Redhawks 71-67. Photo by Kristin Bauer.

Nick Shook

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Trailing by seven at home with under six minutes to play, Kent State faced its first 0-2 start in the Mid-American Conference since the 1996-97 season.

Junior guard Randal Holt and the rest of his team all had the same thought on their minds when the team gathered for a time-out two minutes later.

“When it came down to the last media time-out with four minutes left in the game, we just looked each other in the eyes and said ‘we’re not losing,’” Holt said.

Kent State (11-4, 1-1 MAC) went on a 13-2 run in the final 5:45 to come back and defeat Miami (4-10, 0-2 MAC), 71-67, on Wednesday night in front of 3,281 at the M.A.C. Center. Reigning MAC Player of the Year Justin Greene scored a season-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks. His most important shot of the night came with less than a minute remaining and the score tied at 67-67.

Flashes’ guard Carlton Guyton dribbled the ball on the left wing with nine seconds remaining on the shot clock, and appeared to pull up to shoot the ball when he instead found Greene open on the block. Greene took the pass and twisted his body before laying the ball in the hoop, giving Kent State a 69-67 lead.

“I caught it, twisted my ankle and next thing I know, the crowd is going crazy,” Greene said. “I don’t even know how it went in. I don’t know how I shot it. I’m just happy it went in.”

Greene was replaced by Patrick Jackson during the time-out that followed Greene’s go-ahead bucket, and it was Jackson that made the play to seal the victory for Kent State.

“He fronted him,” Green said. “He made it tough for him to catch it and it caused the guard to throw it out of bounds. It was huge, and that’s what we needed him to do.

(Jackson) does all the dirty work, and that’s the type of guy that you need to win a championship.”

Greene battled with Miami’s Julian Mavunga for much of the night. The 6-foot-8 Redhawks’ forward finished the game with 14 points, well below his 19.7 points-per-game average.

“The last thing I wanted to do is let (Mavunga) come in and get a win on my home court,” Greene said. “I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win.”

During the latter stages of the game, it appeared as though Mavunga and the rest of the Redhawks might do just that. However, with 9:08 remaining and Kent State trailing by seven, senior guard and reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Porrini blocked Will Sullivan’s shot and then tossed an alley-oop pass to senior teammate Justin Manns, who slammed the ball through the rim and sent the MAC Center crowd into a frenzy.

“Down the stretch, when we needed to make plays on the defensive end and when we needed to get defensive rebounds, we seemed to come up with all of them,” Senderoff said.

Miami head coach Charlie Coles was disappointed in the outcome of the game, but had only words of praise and respect for Kent State.

“Kent’s guards are men,” Coles said. “They’re men. Kent fought a little harder than we fought. Greene was a monster, much better than I thought he would be in this game.”

Kent State entered halftime trailing by a large margin in the rebounding category. The Flashes were out-rebounded 15-9 in the first half and the discrepancy had reached 12 midway through the second half. Senderoff instructed his guards to get in position defensively for long rebounds. Holt was one of those guards, and finished the night with 16 points, five rebounds and three steals.

“He’s probably the smallest guy, but every night, nine out of 10 times, he’s got the biggest heart,” Greene said. “He’s not afraid to get in there and mix it up.”

Kent State will host Bowling Green on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

“Every win is important, especially every win at home,” Senderoff said. “You can’t lose home games in this league. It’s too tough to win on the road to afford to lose home games. It was a huge win for us and our kids showed a tremendous amount of heart in finding a way to win.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].