Chris Gates

Flashes can’t stop Zips’ brothers in rivalry loss

VIEW photos from Saturday’s game.

Had it not been for Akron’s brotherly connection, the Kent State men’s basketball team might have beaten the Zips Saturday afternoon.

Instead, sophomore forward Brett McKnight and junior forward Chris McKnight dominated the low post all game against the Flashes and accounted for more than half of Akron’s points in the Zips’ 68-54 win. Brett led the way with 29 points and Chris added another 11.

“All they had to do was get it inside to the McKnights,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “Either one. . We didn’t get them guarded at all.

“The only time they didn’t score was when they didn’t have (the ball).”

Akron took advantage of Kent State’s minimal post presence all game. The Flashes (8-11, 1-4 Mid-American Conference) lost two of their top post players as the game wore on for different reasons.

Senior forward Julian Sullinger left the game for good early in the first half with a sprained ankle. Chris Singletary then found himself in foul trouble in the second half, limiting him to eight minutes of playing time. He eventually fouled out with 5:51 remaining.

This allowed the McKnights more room down low, and they took advantage to the tune of 14-for-17 from the floor. Brett McKnight shot 10-of-11 on field goals.

“We just couldn’t guard them,” Ford said. “We tried a multitude of guys, but the only thing it was, was a matter of who they scored on.

“We were able to force a few turnovers, but any time we didn’t force a turnover with our guards helping down, they were able to score.”

As Akron was scoring, Kent State was continuing what has become a trend so far in conference play: the “big three” not producing.

The “big three” is comprised of senior guard Al Fisher and junior guards Singletary and Tyree Evans. In the first four games of January, they accounted for nearly 70 percent of the team’s total offense. Since then, the group has been erratic.

Opponents have found a way to limit them in recent games and, in turn, the Flashes have been losing. Against Akron, the three combined to shoot 9-of-34.

“We told our guys before the game . that you cannot let any of the three get a home run on you,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “(Junior forward Anthony Simpson) had an unbelievable game for them, but that’s okay because the big three didn’t clobber us.”

Simpson was a major reason for a run that brought the Flashes back in the game after trailing 39-25 at halftime. With Singletary and Fisher in foul trouble most of the game, Simpson scored 16 points and brought down 16 rebounds.

He had nine points and 11 rebounds in the second half, which spurred a 23-8 Kent State run for nearly the first 12 minutes. The Flashes eventually got a one-point lead, 48-47, with 8:16 to play on a hook shot by Brandon Parks on the left block.

Akron quickly called a timeout and re-adjusted to go on a 9-0 run of its own, forcing Ford and the Flashes to call a time-out. The Zips’ run continued when the two teams came out on the floor and lasted for the remainder of the second half. Akron allowed just six Kent State points in the final eight minutes of the game.

The McKnights scored 12 of Akron’s final 21 points.

“The McKnights are two very good players,” senior guard Jordan Mincy said. “We emphasized before going out that they were going to be a key in the game.

“We applaud them. They did very well.”

Kent State has little time to regroup, with a home game against Eastern Michigan tomorrow night. Ford said after the game the team has to regroup quickly because, though it seems as though there are a ton of games left, the MAC Tournament is coming quickly.

“We can’t have a mentality right now that there’s a lot of time left,” he said. “We have to play with a sense of urgency. Our back’s against the wall. We need to put something together and we need to do it now.”

After each game, opposing coaches have expressed confidence in Ford and believe the Flashes will be a stronger team come season’s end. This was no different with Dambrot.

“I feel for Geno because he’s in a tough situation,” Dambrot said. “That’s a difficult situation with the way the expectation levels are.

“I think you’ll see them by the end of the year be right in the mix of the whole thing.”

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