Flashes ‘bust’ for 20th win

Cody Erbacher

Kent State holds off late rally to top W. Carolina

Kent State holds off late rally to top W. Carolina

The Kent State men’s basketball team used a mixture of toughness and a comeback mentality to turn a shaky second half into a victory on national television Saturday night.

Missed foul shots in the final minute of the ESPNU BracketBuster made a Kent State victory look grim Saturday at the M.A.C. Center, but the Flashes kept pushing to edge out a 74-72 victory over Western Carolina.

“I knew that we were going to be tough no matter what,” said senior guard Chris Singletary. “That’s something we pride ourselves on: being tough at the end of games.”

With 51 seconds left in regulation, Singletary hit two foul shots paving the way for what seemed would be an easy victory with a 71-64 score.

But some missed foul shots would give Western Carolina a chance.

After Western Carolina couldn’t capitalize on its next possession, Singletary was fouled and sent to the free throw line.

Singletary missed both free throws, and Western Carolina junior guard Mike Williams answered with a three-pointer to tighten the score at 71-67.  

“I got to do a better job at the free throw line,” said Singletary, who went 2-for-7 from the free throw line. “We got to do a better job closing the game out as a team at the free throw line.”

Following Williams’ three, the ball was inbounded to senior guard Tyree Evans, who shot 4-for-9 from three-point range en route to his 14 points. Evans was fouled, but only connected on one free throw.

Senior forward Jake Robinson hit a three-pointer with seven seconds remaining in regulation, cutting the Flashes’ lead to 72-70.

Sophomore forward Justin Greene, who shot a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line, gave Kent State the edge hitting the final two free throws for a 74-70 lead. Junior forward Richie Gordon closed out the game with a lay up in the final seconds.

Kent State started the second half with a 34-33 lead, which would be taken away by the Catamounts in the first minute.  

The Flashes would trail until the final 12 minutes of regulation when Singletary recorded five straight assists on five straight Kent State possessions. The Flashes took a 50-49 lead capped off by an assist from Singletary to Greene.

Greene recorded a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds.

The game remained close for six minutes, but Western Carolina would go on a 6-0 run giving the Catamounts a 62-56 lead with 4:07 left in regulation.

“I thought we really improved our intensity in the last four minutes,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “We’re just not playing as well as we were a few weeks ago.  To be honest, I thought we got out-toughed.”

Back-to-back stops by Kent State tied the game at 62, and then after a missed foul shot by Singletary, he received the ball in front of his bench and drained a three-point shot for a 65-62 lead.

“Once we get close enough where we know we got to get a stop we do a great job getting that stop,” Singletary said. “Sometimes we know we can lock down at the end of the game so sometimes we relax for the first 35 minutes of the game.”

Kent State travels to Bowling Green on Wednesday to continue the final round of Mid-American Conference East play.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].