The 20-win streak is over, but this team earned respect

Josh Johnston

Shortly after the buzzer sounded on Kent State’s loss to Buffalo yesterday, my editor called and asked me to write a column about the game.

I didn’t know what to say; I’d never written a column before, and now I needed to sum up the game that ended the streak. What could I say about the game that made Kent State stand still? Where could I even start?

So I’ll start with the glaring fact: Barring a postseason tournament appearance, the Kent State men’s basketball team failed to win 20 games for the first time in 11 seasons.

Once that final buzzer sounded, the deathly silence from Kent State’s faithful seemed to drown out the cheers from Buffalo’s fans. Like mourners at a funeral, media members spoke in whispers while waiting for the postgame press conference.

Who can be blamed for the loss? Was it the officials who called 25 fouls on the Flashes? Was it the Big Three of Al Fisher, Chris Singletary and Tyree Evans? Was it first-year Kent State coach Geno Ford?

The answer is none of them.

Kent State didn’t fail in its quest for 20 wins yesterday afternoon. It didn’t even fail after a five-game losing streak at the early part of the season. It failed when the schedule was set.

Twenty wins isn’t the mark of great teams – it’s the mark of schedule-savvy teams. Ford and Laing Kennedy gambled this season. Instead of playing only no-name schools with hoodies for warm-ups, they went after the big boys. The defending national champions. The current Horizon League title-holders.

Ford and Kennedy didn’t want 20 wins; they wanted respect. They wanted Kent State to turn the NCAA Selection Committee’s heads. They wanted the Flashes to be above the bubble, not on the outside looking in.

Well, the gamble didn’t work, but Kent State sure as hell came close to 20 wins. And even now the Flashes may be rewarded for it and given another crack at 20 wins.

There’s still the College Basketball Invitational and the inaugural Postseason Tournament. Sure, it’s not the big dance, but a bid in either tournament will give Kent State a chance to earn postseason respect – something the team needs if it ever wants a coveted NCAA at-large bid.

The Flashes’ season shouldn’t be over yet. Not by a long shot.

Contact sports reporter Josh Johnston at [email protected].