Flashes streak past Rockets

Cody Francis

Defense shines in MAC contest

Thirty-nine seconds before halftime of last night’s game against Toledo, Kent State senior forward Anthony Simpson promised teammate Rodriguez Sherman he was going to dunk before the half. As time ran off the clock, Simpson came through on his word and slammed the ball, and half of his arm, through the rim to give the Flashes (13-7, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) an 11-point lead at the break en route to a 69-49 victory over the Rockets (3-17, 0-6).

The dunk came in the middle of a 20-0 run by Kent State, ending the first half on an 8-0 run and beginning the second half 12-0.

“I told Rod (Sherman) at 39 seconds, I said … give me the rock, I’m gonna dunk,” Simpson said. “And then, you know, Frank (Henry-Ala) stole it, we on the break, Rod threw a little floater, I see it up there I said ‘I gotta go get it’ ‘cause I just promised my teammate I was gonna dunk the ball before half.’”

Simpson’s light mood isn’t rare among his team as of late, as the Flashes have won three straight games in dominating fashion. The light mood, however, is something the Flashes have earned. Kent State coach Geno Ford said his team has had solid practices in the last week.

“Our best practices of the year started on Tuesday before the Buffalo game and Thursday, Friday before Akron and Sunday, Monday before this one,” Ford said. “We have had an outstanding week. If we would have played seven straight days, I honestly think we would have won all seven just because of the way we’re executing offensively and our focus to the defensive end just in terms of communicating with each other and working.”

Although Kent State’s offense has been receiving the most attention in the past week because of two straight games of scoring 85 points or more, the defense was able to hold the Rockets to less than 50 points, a feat the team only performed one other time this season (Nov. 22, 2009, against Rochester College).

After Toledo went on a 12-5 run to start the game, the Flashes adjusted to the Rocket’s offense and allowed only nine points in the last 13:54 of the half. During that span, the Kent State offense scored 27 points and took control of the game’s pace.

“We just started digging in more, playing a little bit more defense,” sophomore forward Justin Greene said. “ … We just turned it around. Coach challenged us a little bit in the first media (timeout), so we had to respond.”

Greene and senior guard Tyree Evans paced Kent State with 14 points each. Kent State was able to consistently spread the ball with four other Flashes scoring at least seven points.

“(Spreading the ball is) a huge thing for us,” Ford said. “We’ve got a lot of talented scorers and they have bought into making the extra pass, and it’s taken us a little while, but we’re getting more extra pass open looks now than we got the whole first month of the season. And I don’t mean that we were selfish, but we’re just being so unselfish right now that our field-goal percentages have gone up and that’s how you score 70 points in a game that the pace was at a snail’s crawl most of the time.”

The win enabled the Flashes to start its tour of the Mid-American Conference West Division with a win and, with a Miami loss last night to Ball State, allowed the Flashes to momentarily hold first place in the MAC East.

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Cody Francis

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