Kent State is good, but far from elite

Cody Francis

There is a fine line between an elite basketball program and a good basketball program. An elite basketball team can play on the big stage, win in clutch situations in the games that matter most and do all the little things right to ensure a victory.

Good programs can come through in some situations, but for the most part leave their fans disappointed at the end of every season.

Kent State is far from being an elite program, and they proved it last night in a 75-58 loss to Illinois in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament.

After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first half and going in the locker room tied at 31, the Flashes came out in the second half and played like they were down by 31 points. They missed their first five shots and let the Fighting Illini jump out to a 39-31 lead that Kent State couldn’t even come close to surmounting. But for some reason, I get the feeling Kent State is satisfied with this year’s postseason.

The Flashes had one of the biggest victories in the past few years last Wednesday when they put a stop to an eight-year drought without a postseason win with a 75-74 victory over Tulsa.

In the victory over the Golden Hurricane, junior guard Rodriquez Sherman hit a layup with 20 seconds left in regulation to go up by one, and Kent State held on for the win.

Last night when Kent State was down by eight points with 15:45 left in the second half, no Golden Flash stepped up, no Golden Flash looked like they even thought they could come back to win and no Golden Flash looked like they cared to win. 

Even Kent State coach Geno Ford could see his team let themselves get down, saying that it looked like the game was lost in the first five minutes of the second half.

After scoring 11 points in the first half, senior forward Anthony Simpson was nowhere to be found in the second, scoring his only three points with 10:32 remaining.

Senior guard Chris Singletary, one of the Flashes’ most dominant players over his four years, didn’t give himself a chance to take the lead, getting into foul trouble early and eventually fouling out with 4:48 to play in his last game at Kent State.

Illinois forward Mike Davis, center Mike Tisdale and guard Demetri McCamey, on the other hand, took control of their team and the game in the second half. The trio hit every clutch free throw and jumper and pulled down every clutch rebound, combining for 32 points in the second half, more than the Flashes could muster up as a team.

Different players have come up big for Kent State all season, but why couldn’t they last night? Where was Sherman, who hit the game-winner last week and had that amazing dunk to put away Western Michigan in January? Where was Singletary, who has been the leader of this team for the past two or three years?

It seemed like they weren’t even there. It seemed like the leaders of this team mentally checked out five minutes into the second half and were ready to move on with their lives. It seemed like they were satisfied with that one postseason victory.

Sure, the Flashes are one of the top regular season programs in the country with 11 20-win seasons in the past 12 years. But the fact of the matter is, nobody cares about regular-season victories. People want to see postseason results. And until Kent State can produce those results on a consistent basis instead of being satisfied with one win in eight years, no matter how many 20-win seasons they string together, they will not be considered an elite program, nor should they be.

Contact sports editor Cody Francis at [email protected].