Men’s basketball drops Akron, 79-68

Rachel Jones

The Kent State men’s basketball team came back from a 31-27 halftime deficit to beat Akron 79-68 Friday in the M.A.C. Center.

Kent State coach Geno Ford said with the Kent State-Akron rivalry aside, the sold-out crowd was phenomenal.

“That was as loud as this building’s been all season,” Ford said. “(The fans) were jacked up – maybe more than our players in the first five minutes.”

Things started off well when junior forward Justin Greene became the 28th player in Kent State history to score 1,000 career points three minutes into the first half.

But Akron’s four 3-pointers and solid defensive covering put the Flashes down 31-27 at the half.

Senior guard Rod Sherman said the team looked a little “trigger happy” in the first half and admitted he was still recovering from his senior recognition before the game.

“I thought in the first half, we looked a little too emotional and played a little too hard,” Ford said. “(In the second half,) we kept trying to space the floor and drive it as much as we could match-up wise.”

The Zips (19-12, 9-7 Mid-American Conference) continued to lead the first seven minutes of the first half, but junior guard Carlton Guyton turned things around.

“It was a fun half for us to play on offense,” Ford said.

Guyton’s assist to freshman guard Eric Gaines led to the basket and foul shot that put the Flashes (21-10, 12-4 MAC) in the lead for the first time in the second half with 13:22 to go.

Just one minute later, Guyton got two baskets of his own, one of which was a slam dunk.

“Once I did the first cross-over, (my mark) backed off, so I decided to lay it up,” Guyton said. “But I was like, ‘Man, I’m doing pretty hot,’ so I decided to dunk it.”

After that, Guyton sank a layup within that minute for a 46-43 lead. He finished with 16 points.

Greene also contributed with two sets of back-to-back baskets in 30 seconds.

“That’s the best game Justin Greene’s had in a while,” Ford said. “He’s not had his lift lately, so when he smacked the backboard (at 10 feet), I thought, ‘Ooh, he’s on.’”

The Flashes continued to score on 18 of 20 possessions to maintain the Kent State lead for the rest of the game.

“We had one of those nights,” Ford said. “We were due to do well offensively. It’s been awhile since we really had a night where everything clicked offensively.”

Sherman rebuilt the Kent State lead every time Akron got close to tying the score. He finished with 17 points.

With 10 seconds left, Akron’s Quincy Diggs earned a technical foul and a police-escorted-walk off the court. Greene, who led the team with 18 points, sank both free throws for the 79-68 finale.

“Justin Greene tells me every game: ‘I’m not going to let you go out (with a loss),’” Sherman said. “He played for me, so that really touched my heart.”

Sherman left his last game in the M.A.C. Center as the first Kent State player and first MAC player since 1951 to win three MAC titles in a career.

The team’s MAC regular season championship title marks the first time a Kent State team has ever won back-to-back titles. The repetition has only been done twice in the MAC in 48 years.

While the match-ups have yet to be announced, the Flashes start competing for a MAC Championship next week.

“For me, it’s great just to win a (regular season) championship,” Guyton said. “I’ve never won anything as a team, so – I’m at a loss for words.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].