KSU triumphs in Battle of Goldens

Cody Erbacher

Kent State and Tulsa traded leads for the final 11 minutes and 42 seconds until a missed last-second shot gave the Flashes a 75-74 victory in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament yesterday at the M.A.C. Center.

The victory broke an eight-season slump without a postseason win, and in a season where last-second shots have helped and hurt Kent State, yesterday’s miss by Tulsa senior guard Ben Uzoh couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It felt great,” senior guard Tyree Evans said about the win. “We’re a family. We had to put our foot down tonight so we could stay together a little bit longer.”

The Flashes took a one-point lead with 20.8 seconds left in the game following a layup by junior guard Rodriquez Sherman. The Golden Hurricane took their final timeout with 14.3 remaining.

Out of the team huddle, the game was left in the hands of Uzoh.

Uzoh met the strong presence of Kent State’s defense. The Flashes smothered him as he tried to find an opening.

Uzoh was forced to heave up a last-second shot from the baseline that hit off the rim, sending Kent State to the next round of the NIT. This was the Flashes’ first postseason win since the 2002 Elite Eight run.

“We trapped him … he took a tough shot on the baseline,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “It was a highly contested shot.”

Exiting the first half down seven points, the Flashes were forced to step up, and they did just that.

After extending Tulsa’s lead to eight points with the help of a dunk from junior guard Justin Hurtt, Kent State senior guard Chris Singletary scored four points straight, cutting the lead to 38-34 with 17:18 remaining.

Singletary led Kent State scoring with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Senior forward Frank Henry-Ala followed Singletary’s points with a steal and in the Flashes’ ensuing possession, sophomore forward Justin Greene brought the game within two points with a bucket.

Tulsa put a glitch in the Flashes’ surge by going on a 7-3 run, taking the score to 45-39, but the Kent State offense cut into that lead once again and trailed 47-46 with 13:34 left.

About a minute later, the Golden Hurricane took another six-point lead, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Sherman and freshman guard Randal Holt tied the game 52-52.

With less than nine minutes left, Evans showed some life, which had been missing in some of the past games.

He scored eight straight points to give Kent State a 62-58 lead with 8:06 remaining in the game. Evans finished with 10 points.

“Tyree was great,” Ford said. “He got us going. We were in trouble when he got hot. The first three he made when it touched every part of the rim and went in he kind of smiled and relaxed, and I think it got everybody on our team going.”

Tulsa cut back into the Flashes’ lead and the game remained within a four-point difference for either team until the buzzer.

Tulsa senior center Jerome Jordan and junior guard Justin Hurtt controlled a majority of the first half, in which Tulsa took a 35-28 lead. Jordan, a 7-foot post player, challenged Greene and Kent State’s big men for most of the night.

The duo scored 28 points in the first half as Tulsa shot nearly 47 percent from the field. Jordan recorded 14 points and Hurtt totaled 10 in the first 20 minutes of play, while the team’s next highest scorer had four points.

Each player finished with a double-double. Jordan recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds, while Hurtt recorded 22 points and 10 rebounds.

The Flashes trailed most of the first half and never took more than a three-point lead.

Holt and Greene led the Flashes in the first stanza with eight points each. Holt hit the Flashes’ only first half 3-pointer as the team struggled from behind the arc, shooting 1-for-10.

Six Flashes scored in double figures for the second time this season.

Kent State will next play the winner of the Illinois-Stony Brook game, which was not finished by press time.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].

KSU men’s basketball vs. Tulsa