Busting brackets for seven years

Chris Gates

Flashes to host Morehead State in 7th annual BracketBuster

Junior guard Chris Singletary fights to score two of his six points in last year’s BracketBuster game at St. Mary’s. The Flashes upset the No. 20 Gaels 65-57, achieving the first regular-season win over a ranked team in program history. DANIEL DOHERTY | D

Credit: DKS Editors

Tomorrow will mark the seventh season in a row that the Kent State men’s basketball team will play in a BracketBuster game. The Flashes (15-11, 8-4 Mid-American Conference) will play Morehead State at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center, looking to improve upon their 4-2 BracketBuster record.

The Eagles boast one of the nation’s top young NBA prospects in sophomore forward Kenneth Faried. He averages 13.7 points and 13 rebounds a game on one of the nation’s top rebounding teams. Kent State coach Geno Ford said Faried is as good as any player the Flashes have faced this year.

“We’re going to really have to do a job on the backboard,” Ford said. “They’re much better than I hoped they would be.”

As the Flashes prepare to take on the Eagles, here’s a look back at the program’s history in the game:

2003 Hawaii

Kent 78, Hawaii 79

Eric Haut and Matt Jakeway combined for three 3-pointers in the game’s final 19 seconds to nearly pull off a seemingly impossible comeback, but the Flashes fell one point short, 79-78.

After Hawaii took a 75-67 lead with 23 seconds remaining, Haut and Jakeway started their 3-point assault. The Rainbow Warriors had trouble hitting free throws down the stretch but made just enough to hold off the Kent State comeback.

“It was the first year (ever) of the BracketBuster,” said Ford, who was an assistant at the time under former coach Jim Christian.

“We had a sold-out building, and Hawaii came in here with a good team. We really didn’t play particularly well.”

The loss dropped the Flashes’ record to 18-6, their fourth loss in five games after starting the season 17-2.

2004 Creighton

Kent 70, Creighton 55

Junior guard Jason Edwin scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead the Flashes in scoring in a game pitting two 19-win teams against each other.

Creighton led 42-41 until Kent State went on a 19-0 run to take a 60-42 lead with 9:12 to play in the second half. Freshman forward Scott Cutley scored eight points in the run, which broke the game wide open after it had been close throughout the first half.

“(The M.A.C. Center) is one of those buildings that, when it starts and it really gets some electricity in it, it can get cooking,” Ford said. “We just made an unbelievable amount of perimeter jump shots in that game.”

Senior guard Eric Haut added 18 points for the Flashes, who improved their record to 20-3 and clinched their sixth consecutive season with 20 wins or more.

2005 Southern Illinois

Kent 54, Southern Illinois 65

Despite going on a 25-8 run to open the second half, the Flashes could not hold off the Salukis. Southern Illinois led 32-20 at halftime but trailed 45-40 with 10:30 left in the second half.

However, that Kent State lead quickly diminished. In just 1:18 of play, Southern Illinois scored a quick six points and took the lead back, 46-45. The Salukis never trailed again.

“We struggled to score,” Ford said. “It was one of those ugly games that they just guarded us so well.”

The Flashes made a final push as time wound down to cut Southern Illinois’ lead to 60-54. However, Kent State was forced to foul, which didn’t pay off as the Salukis made 5 of 6 free throws to close the game. The Salukis would advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

2006 Butler

Kent 80, Butler 76

With 10 seconds remaining, senior guard DeAndre Haynes spotted up for a 3-pointer and hit it, tying the game at 69-69 and sending it into overtime.

“We were down the whole game, and our best player basically stepped up and made the plays that he was supposed to make,” said Kent State assistant coach Armon Gates, then a junior guard for the Flashes. “In overtime, we took care of business and won the game.”

In the overtime period, senior guard Jay Youngblood hit a 3-pointer to put the Flashes up 74-72 with 3:18 remaining. Butler’s Avery Sheets made a layup to tie the score, but Youngblood gave Kent State the lead for good with a jumper, making the score 76-74.

Haynes added three of the Flashes’ final four points from the line, and Kent State came away with the win.

2007 at George Mason

Kent 68, George Mason 62

A layup by junior forward Haminn Quaintance with 3:30 left in the game put the Flashes up 61-60, the eighth lead change of the second half. Gates then hit a 3-pointer 1:15 later, putting the game out of reach.

Gates finished with 13 points.

“We really wanted to go win that game because that was the year after they went to the Final Four,” Gates said. “The shots that I got, I made them. We just went in and executed the game plan.”

The game was close throughout, with Kent State earning the biggest lead of the game with 1:29 remaining in the first half, 34-27. The Flashes took a 38-33 lead into halftime after shooting 14-of-24 in the first half. The Patriots came back in the second half and had the lead with 3:50 to play until Quaintance’s layup took back the lead for Kent State.

2008 at St. Mary’s

Kent 65, St. Mary’s 57

Junior guard Al Fisher scored 28 points, the most memorable of which came with 51.4 seconds left in the game. Fisher drove to the basket and threw in a reverse circus layup, beating the Gaels’ defense and pushing the score to 60-55 in favor of Kent State.

The layup came during a six-minute stretch where the Flashes held No. 20 St. Mary’s without a basket. In that time, the Flashes went on a 13-2 run to take the lead.

The win resulted in Kent State’s first-ever regular-season national ranking – No. 23 in the AP Poll and No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.

“That was the first time in the history of Kent State (that) we’ve been ranked in the regular season,” said Fisher, now a senior. “It was good because a lot of people were counting us out going down there (and) playing a top 25 team.”