The Bitter End

Cody Erbacher

Poor second half ends Flashes’ run

The Kent State men’s basketball team’s hopes at an upset in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament were shut down by top-seeded Illinois yesterday, 75-58, at Assembly Hall

in Champaign, Ill.

“I felt bad for all our kids,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “They’re in the locker room crying because they felt bad for the way they played in the second half. Not that it’s over, just that they wanted to play well.”

The fourth-seeded Flashes were coming off their first postseason victory in eight seasons after beating Tulsa, 75-74, Wednesday night in the first round of the NIT.

Unfortunately for Kent State, the thriller of a tight game in the first round wasn’t present

against Illinois.

After keeping the score tied in the first half, the Fighting Illini exploded to an 8-0 run to start the second half.

The Flashes traded baskets with Illinois before senior guard Chris Singletary, who finished with nine points before fouling out, converted a three-point play to bring Kent State within five with 14:22 left in the game.

That would be the closest Kent State would come for the rest of the game. Illinois guard Demetri McCamey and forward Mike Davis fueled their team’s ensuing 6-0 run.

Senior forward Anthony Simpson later hit his second 3-pointer of the day to cut the lead down to 51-45 with 10:32 left, but McCamey took the game into his own hands, scoring six points in an 11-4 run for Illinois over the next couple minutes.

“We couldn’t get any stops on the defensive end,” said freshman guard Randal Holt, who finished with six points and three rebounds. “We couldn’t contain their run at one point in the game.”

The game slipped only further out of reach as Illinois increased its lead to 22 points with an 8-0 run in the final minutes of the game.

The last play of the first half placed a good representation of what the beginning 20 minutes looked like — a scramble of players attempting to figure out a plan.

“We just could never get in sync,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said about his team’s first-half play. “We didn’t take our time.”

With the score tied at 31, Kent State held the ball with 32.2 seconds remaining to attempt to run out the game clock to have the last shot.

After multiple passes around the half-court line, the Kent State offense made a move. But Illinois created a turnover resulting in a fast break.

Singletary, who took a chance with two fouls, received a charge as senior forward Dominique Keller ran over him, halting Illinois’ breakaway.

The Fighting Illini, along with the Flashes, failed to take a lead larger than four points in the first half.

Kent State shot a weak 3-for-9 from the foul line in the first half, which was largely because of Singletary’s 0-for-4 struggle.

The Flashes were led by sophomore forward Justin Greene (15 points and seven rebounds) and Simpson (14 points and seven rebounds).

Illinois was led by Davis with 16 points and 16 rebounds, junior center Mike Tisdale with 17 points and seven rebounds and McCamey with 15 points.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].