Kent State men’s basketball downs Rockets, 77-61

Nick Shook

Kent State (14-6, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) traveled to northwest Ohio to take on the Toledo Rockets (10-11, 2-5 MAC) Saturday night and came away with another much-needed 77-61 conference victory in front of 4,720 at John F. Savage Arena in Toledo.

An impressive defensive stretch in the second half propelled the Flashes to their second victory in a row and 26th-straight versus MAC West division opponents. Kent State’s Chris Evans turned defense into offense throughout the night, but he was most impressive during a two minute stretch in which Evans stole the ball three times and scored once as part of a 16-2 Flashes run. Evans finished the night with a career-high 23 points.

Toledo started the game on a quick 6-0 run thanks to two buckets from leading scorer Rian Pearson. Following a timeout called by Flashes’ head coach Rob Senderoff, Kent State’s Chris Evans and Randal Holt each knocked down a 3-pointer to jumpstart a Flashes offense that went on a 20-5 run in a span of 5:59.

Kent State’s offense came back down to earth and both the Flashes and Rockets traded buckets for over six minutes. However, missed shots and a pair of turnovers by Kent State allowed Toledo back into the game. Pearson’s alley-oop dunk with 4:31 remaining in the first half capped off an 8-0 run that brought Toledo back into the game and tied it at 24-24. Following a timeout by Kent State, the Flashes outscored Toledo 11-7 in the final 4:27 to take a 35-31 lead into halftime.

The Rockets came within two points of tying the game early in the second half, but the Flashes turned up the defensive intensity moments later and the results were impressive. Kent State grabbed five steals within two minutes, which resulted in eight quick points to suddenly put the Flashes ahead by 10. If not for a couple of careless fast break possessions, including a turnover by Randal Holt and a missed dunk attempt by Patrick Jackson, Kent State may have shut the door on the Rockets right then. However, Toledo cut Kent State’s lead to as few as 10, but could not come any closer as the Flashes ran away with a 16-point victory over the Rockets.