Men’s basketball moves on to NIT quarterfinals

Rachel Jones

The No.7 Kent State men’s basketball team defeated No.6 Fairfield 72-68 Sunday,

advancing the Flashes to the quarterfinals in the National Invitational Tournament.

Before the Flashes headed to Fairfield, Kent State coach Geno Ford said the teams were evenly matched in terms of playing style.

That proved to be true as the team’s reached at 35-35 tie at halftime, but it also showed up on the stats sheet: Kent State had 10 fouls, Fairfield had nine. The Flashes had ten turnovers, the Stags had 12.

Ford said the players started the game trying to match Fairfield’s energy level and toughness.

“(Fairfield) competes,” Ford said. “They play as hard as anyone we’ve played all year. I thought we matched them early then we just couldn’t ever get away from them. We had a lot of four or five-point leads, but we always got back to a tie.”

But the No.7 Flashes proved to have a little more juice in the second half.

Senior guard Rod Sherman posted his first points of the game with a 3-pointer with 11:35 left in the game, bringing the Flashes up 52-49.

Sherman finished with five points, just three above junior forward Justin Greene, who spent most of the game blocked by double-teaming defenders.

Ford said he was not surprised but very proud of the other players who took over in the offensive department.

Stepping up for the Flashes, sophomore guard Randal Holt banked a team-high 22 points,including four 3-pointers.

“That’s the good thing about our team: We have four or five guys who could go off at any time,” Holt said. “You never know when that’s going to be. We’ve just been waiting for that day when all of us are clicking.”

This was especially crucial when junior guard Michael Porrini took the bench halfway through the second half after a Fairfield player hit him in the head during a collision.

To avoid risking further injury, Porrini sat the rest of the game and will not play again until he is officially checked out and cleared.

“When we lost Mike, that changed the complexion of the game because he’s our best

point guard,” Ford said. “To lose your best ball handler and decision maker was a little bit scary, but we had some guys step up.”

When Fairfield started a late-run that made the game 60-58 with 6:53 to go, junior guard Carlton Guyton ensured the Kent State lead with a basket 30 seconds later. He finished with 16 points.

“We were able to make some plays at the five-minute mark and the three-minute mark that gave us a lead we were able to nurse to the end,” Ford said.

With 45.2 seconds on the clock, Holt took the first Kent State foul shots of the game. He sank both, putting the Flashes up comfortably 70-64.

Guyton finished the game in a similar fashion, making two free throws with 11.7 seconds to go for the 72-68 finale.

The Flashes will take on No.1 Colorado – who is still better about its NCAA Tournament snub – in the quarterfinals. While the game will definitely be at Colorado, the time will be announced after all of the second round games are completed.

“This definitely is a confidence booster,” Holt said. “We’re just playing to keep our family alive and keep this season alive.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected]