Late 3-pointer by McKee gives Flashes victory

Chris Gates

Audio Highlights by Ken Brown | Black Squirrel Radio

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For once, it wasn’t senior guard Al Fisher’s ability to score in crucial situations that decided the game. This time, it was his ability to find other players for scores.

Fisher found junior guard Mike McKee for a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining as the Kent State men’s basketball team came back to defeat Akron 67-63 yesterday at the M.A.C. Center.

Breaking down the game:

Player of the game … Senior guard Al Fisher. Even though he didn’t hit the winning shot, Fisher finished with 18 points, six rebounds and five assists, hitting two crucial free throws at the end of the game.

It was over when … Tyree Evans hit two free throws to push the Kent State lead to 67-63 with nine seconds remaining. All Akron could do was throw up a prayer that fell short.

Stat of the game … Kent State outrebounded Akron 43-31. It allowed the Flashes to score 23 second-chance points – a big factor in their comeback.

“I was running the wing, and I wasn’t looking for the ball,” McKee said. “I heard, ‘Mike!’ and I turned and looked, and the ball was on me already. Luckily I didn’t have time to think about it. I just caught it, turned and shot it.”

The 3-pointer was the second time Fisher found McKee in the final three minutes.

With the Flashes down 59-56, Fisher passed the ball to McKee on the left wing. With Akron senior forward Nate Linhart charging toward him to contest the shot, McKee faked, stepped to the right and fired up a long 2-point jumper to make the score 59-58 with 2:40 remaining.

“I went to shoot it, and I saw Linhart come flying at me,” McKee said. “So I knew I couldn’t get it off. I just did a shot fake, one dribble, (pulled) up and let it go.”

After two free throws from Akron freshman guard Anthony Hitchens, McKee hit two of his own. Then after another free throw by Hitchens, Fisher found McKee again, this time in the corner, for the go-ahead 3. The Flashes (18-13, 10-6 Mid-American Conference) never trailed again.

Kent State played most of the game without junior guard Chris Singletary after he was ejected just 1:08 into the game.

Linhart drove to the basket on Singletary during Akron’s second possession of the game and fell to the ground grabbing his ribs, causing a stoppage in play.

Upon video review, the referees determined Singletary punched Linhart, and Singletary was ejected.

“It was a personal, flagrant foul on Chris Singletary,” official Terry Wymer said. “(The officials) had five (camera) shots available, and the guys in the truck did a great job. It was a non-basketball play and warranted a flagrant.”

Despite the ejection, Singletary is eligible for the MAC Tournament, which will begin tomorrow.

Other Kent State players stepped up in Singletary’s absence.

Senior forward Julian Sullinger controlled the post for much of the first half, shooting 3-of-4 from the floor and scoring seven points. He added eight rebounds, as well, before halftime.

“(In the) first half Julian gave us a chance to win,” Ford said. “He almost had a double-double at halftime. (If) Julian doesn’t play like that, we’re done – it’s already over. He was the one guy that kept us in it.”

Sullinger’s production dropped off in the second half because of foul trouble early on. He was called for three fouls in the first four minutes of the second half.

Junior center Brandon Parks replaced Sullinger and didn’t miss a step. He pulled down six rebounds – four offensive – and scored six points in 13 second-half minutes. For the game, Parks had nine rebounds.

To get the win, Kent State had to make two comebacks. Akron led the game for nearly 25 minutes, from the 16:14 mark in the first half until the 11:26 mark in the second half. Kent State fought through two 10-point deficits and took a 46-45 lead on a jumper by Fisher.

The Flashes held the lead for nearly four minutes, but surrendered it to Akron again on three straight 3-pointers by the Zips. Sophomore guard Steve McNees, Linhart and sophomore forward Brett McKnight each hit 3-pointers over a span of four Akron possessions to take a 58-53 lead with 5:22 left.

Akron junior guard Darryl Roberts missed an opportunity to make it four 3s in a row, and the Zips failed to hit another field goal for the rest of the game. That gave Fisher and McKee the chance to take the lead.

“I thought the one shot Darryl Roberts had to ice the game he didn’t make,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “… McKee got his shot, and he did make it.”

The Flashes will begin the MAC Tournament by playing Northern Illinois at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Kent State beat the Huskies 86-83 in double overtime earlier this season.

Contact principal sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].