Men’s basketball upsets St. Mary’s 71-70

Photo courtesy of Tod Fierner

Rachel Jones

The Kent State men’s basketball team upset St. Mary’s 71-70 in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday.

The No.7 Flashes started off strong against the six-time NIT Champion St. Mary’s, maintaining the lead until there was 6:54 left in the first half.

Sophomore guard Randal Holt and junior guard Michael Porrini posted two dagger 3-pointers, which were key components in the strong offensive play. The Flashes shot 63 percent from the arc in the first half.

But a fourteen-point run in four minutes put the Gaels in a 32-26 lead with 4:24 left in the first half.

Junior center Justin Manns boosted things on the defensive end with key blocks and offensive rebounds.

Manns made his biggest contribution with six seconds on the clock.

Junior forward Justin Greene tried to score in the final minutes of the half. The Gaels’ double-teaming forced the shot to bounce off the rim – and into the hands of Manns, who dunked it.

The Flashes trailed St. Mary’s 39-35 at the half.

A completely different St. Mary’s team started the second half, charging offensively and pulling ahead 51-41 with 15:21 remaining.

Greene stepped up for Kent State’s first free throw of the game with 12:26 left. He sank one, closing the Gaels’ lead to 57-46.

Kent State had its defensive down but needed to actually score if it wanted to win.

In response, Holt and Porrini sank one 3-pointer each within a minute to bring St. Mary’s lead to 59-56.

Senior guard Rod Sherman, who needed his right foot taped up toward the end of the first half, also made a 3-point contribution with 4:43 to go.

He also made it a 67-65 game with 1:17 on the clock.

Then, Porrini fouled Mickey McConnell, who is 91 percent from the free throw line.

But McConnell only made one basket, and Porrini quickly rebounded and scored for a 68-67 game with 35.4 seconds remaining.

With 24.9 to go, St. Mary’s Clint Steindl missed a dunk but drew a foul, bringing the Gaels up 70-67.

Porrini ran down for the basket, and it bounced off the rim. But a goal tending call – which means a St. Mary’s player put his hands over the basket, so there was no way Kent State could score – gave Porrini the points.

With 10.7 seconds on the clock, Greene charged down the paint and sank the game winning basket.

he Flashes take on Fairfield in the second round of the NIT, but the time and location will be announced in the future.

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].