Routing their rivals

Cody Erbacher

Flashes clinch fourth regular season title in school history

Flashes clinch fourth regular season title in school history

The Kent State men’s basketball team turned Akron’s white out into a 13-point wipeout in front of a national TV audience en route to a Mid-American Conference regular season title Friday night.

Led by sixth man Anthony Simpson, the Flashes (23-8, 13-3 MAC) scored an overwhelming 74-61 victory over the Zips (22-9, 12-4 MAC) at Rhodes Arena for a season sweep of their archrivals.

Kent State clinched the No. 1 seed in this week’s MAC Tournament and an automatic National Invitational Tournament bid with the win. Akron fell to the No. 3 seed with the loss.

Simpson, a senior forward, starred in the final regular-season game, leading all scorers with 23 points while adding nine rebounds.

“Anthony’s capable of doing that every night,” said senior guard Chris Singletary, who only played 15 minutes because of foul trouble. “It just so happened tonight his number got called on, and he rose to the occasion and played a great game.”

Simpson ignited the Flashes’ offense, which started 0-for-4 from the field, with a mix of powerful dunks and arcing jump shots. He also threw in a couple juke moves.

The Zips’ fans attempted to throw Simpson off of his game by taunting him frequently, but he used it as motivation.

“I just laughed at them,” Simpson said. “My teammates and the ref was like, ‘Don’t say nothing to them; it’s not that serious.’ To me, now I look at them and I can laugh, right?

“They (are) mad, they had their white shirts. Now they can take them off and be real upset.”

Akron jumped out to a 7-3 lead to start the game. Behind an 8-0 run, Kent State took more than eight minutes into the half while the Zips’ shooters went cold.

The Flashes extended their lead to 31-23 by halftime as Akron shot just 27 percent from the field. Kent State led the rest of the way in the second stanza behind 15 points from Simpson.

With five minutes left in the game, freshman guard Randal Holt drove inside for a layup to give Kent State a 20-point cushion. White shirts then streamed toward the exits James A. Rhodes Arena.

“To win a conference championship, you’ve got to win on the road,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “I thought we played really well, and they were not great in the first half, and that was the difference.”

The win marked the fourth regular season title in school history and third in five seasons.

Kent State returns to action in the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday against Ohio University, who beat Ball State yesterday, 85-77, in the first round of MAC Tournament.


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Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].