Men’s basketball squeaks past Bowling Green

Nick Shook

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Normally a second-half team, Kent State men’s basketball played a strong first half and held a commanding 18-point lead at halftime. However, it was the second half that spelled trouble for the Flashes.

Visiting Bowling Green (7-9, 1-2 MAC) went on a 13-0 run in the early stages of the second half and came within five points of tying the game, but couldn’t complete the comeback attempt as Kent State (12-4, 2-1 MAC) hung on for the victory, 92-87. The Flashes kept the Falcons at bay in the final minutes of the game and were able to make important free throws to preserve the lead in front of 3,610 Saturday night at the Memorial Athletic Convocation Center. Four players scored in double figures, including Flashes’ senior forward Justin Greene, who scored a team-high 23 points for the second straight game as Kent State won its second Mid-American Conference game in a row.

Bowling Green continually knocked down 3-pointers to keep the game within reach in the final three minutes, but Kent State scored 12 of its final 14 points from the free throw line and senior Carlton Guyton made three of the Flashes’ final four free throw attempts to seal the victory.

All About Justin

Kent State senior forward Justin Greene scored 23 points for the second straight game, and is averaging 20.7 points per game in MAC play. Greene became the ninth player in school history to score 1,300 career points, and Kent State is 16-2 all-time when Greene scores 20 or more points.

Kent State stayed below 10 team turnovers for the sixth time in its last seven games.

Michael Porrini rebounded from an 0-for-9 performance Wednesday to score a season-high 19 points on 6-of-14 attempts.

Randal Holt scored in double digits for the third straight game and finished with 17 points.

Carlton Guyton recorded 10 assists, which was the first 10-plus game since Dec. 20, 2009 (Chris Singletary vs. Texas A&M-CC).

The 92 points by Kent State are the most in a MAC game since a 111-107 overtime victory at Buffalo on Feb. 15, 2006.

“We actually shoot a ton of free throws in practice,” said Rob Senderoff, Kent State head coach. “We did a good job doing that and we needed to close out the game.”

Bowling Green out-rebounded Kent State 25-12 and scored 16 second-chance points en route to a 60-point second half.

“They did a great job of getting to the offensive glass in the second half,” Senderoff said. “Us not getting any rebounds in the second half, I think that was a big key for them getting back in the game.”

Saturday night was important to the confidence level of Kent State’s junior Chris Evans and senior Michael Porrini. Porrini, who had played a pivotal role in the Flashes’ victory over Miami Wednesday but failed to make a field goal, rebounded nicely and finished the night with a season-high 19 points. Evans bounced back from a difficult stretch of games in which he had struggled and scored 10 points off the bench for the Flashes.

“The reason in my eyes that he played well was because he was trying to start his night on the defensive end and rebounding,” Senderoff said. “I thought tonight he did a great job on really focusing and giving energy on the defensive end.”

“When you play on a team where any of us can go for 20 (points) a night, it’s tough to try and get the points that you’re used to,” Porrini said. “(Evans) did other things as well. He played very hard defensively, and he made other plays on the break. He’ll be fine, Chris is doing good.”

Kent State isn’t the only team in the MAC that struggles with slow starts. Louis Orr, Bowling Green head coach, said his team was notorious for starting games slow, which played in favor of the Flashes, who outscored Bowling Green 45-27 in the first half.

“In this league, especially on the road, you have to bring a certain level of toughness right from the start,” Orr said. “We didn’t bring that.”

“In my eyes, it was the defensive intensity and the rebounding that got us going,” Senderoff said. “When we rebound and we guard, our offense looks pretty good and it helps get us going.”

Kent State will travel to Athens to face the Ohio Bobcats Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

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