Looking back from the end

Joe Harrington

Watching the Kent State men’s basketball team play in the first half against UNLV Thursday was like watching John Travolta’s flop “Battlefield Earth” in Spanish sub-titles. It was bad, confusing, awkward and very strange.

The Flashes turned the ball over, constantly. They missed shots, constantly. And they topped it off with poor defense, constantly.

The low point of the half is when the Flashes came out after a timeout and turn the ball over, which leads to a slam dunk (I’d say something different, but there really isn’t another way to describe the play) by UNLV junior guard Rene Rougeau.

Moments later, I hear the crowd erupt after sophomore Chris Singletary scored the first basket in over 10 minutes. It was very sarcastic, and very ugly. The score was 29-8 with 3:10 left to play, and 23:10 left in the Flashes’ season.

With about two minutes left to play, CBS showed that the fewest points in an NCAA Tournament games was 10. That’s how much they had. Senior Haminn Quaintance not only took a three, but he missed the three to put the Kent State Golden Flashes in the dubious achievement category of the tournament history books.

The entire crowd could’ve heard Kansas coach Bill Self crank up the UNLV game tapes to prepare of Saturday’s second round match-up with UNLV. Personally, I was mad. Thirteen hours to Omaha and the Flashes were going to lose in the first round to a team that used have a player nicknamed Grandmama.

But I shouldn’t- and fans shouldn’t- concentrate on the first half slaughtering, because it didn’t get much better after halftime.

As UNLV made another 3-point shot with about six minutes left in the game, I remembered when I was surrounded by screaming Californians just an month before and watching Kent State defeat the ranked St. Mary’s basketball team in the BracketBuster game. It was, without a doubt, the greatest moment I have had after a basketball game.

With four minutes left in the Flashes’ season, just as UNLV guard Wink Adams made another shot, I thought of Mid-American Conference player of the year and Kent State guard, Al Fisher, and his last second shot against the Akron Zips a few weeks ago. That game mattered.

In a way, the Akron-Kent State game matters more than some NCAA game played in the middle of cornfields. Not to take anything away from the greatest sporting event ever, the NCAA tournament, but Northeast Ohio goes nuts for the battle of I-76. Besides people who live in Kent, or people who are alumni of the school, nobody really gets too excited over the Flashes’ NCAA trip until they win a few games.

For example, I drove across Ohio on the Monday after the bracket was released and no one was talking about Kent State (or Xavier for that matter) on the sports-talk radio. No, the radio people had their microphone cords all in a bunch because the Buckeyes were snubbed. Give me a break, the Buckeyes deserved to go the tournament like I deserve to have a dinner date with Tara Reid just because I drink on the weekends.

I watched Kent State prepare to finish the game only down 67-52 with 1:35 left. That score would have surprised me at halftime. I thought Kent State was going to lose by 40 points. At this point I’m no longer frustrated by the Flashes’ game today. Instead, I’m at the stage that some people take weeks, months, years and maybe decades to reach: The Kent State Golden Flashes had an amazing season.

They won the MAC, regular season and tournament. They had the coach, player and defensive player of the year on the team. Mike Scott scored his1,000 point of his career. Chris Singletary emerged as the leader for next season. And Kent State won the MAC Tournament by beating those damn Zips of Akron in the final game.

Will coach Jim Christian leave? Will Kent State get recruits to go with their returning players? Will Kent State win a game near Toledo next year?

I don’t know. But I do know that what ever happens over the next few weeks and months, my impression of the 2007-2008 Kent State men’s basketball team is that they were a good -no better than that- they were a solidly good, borderline great team that never fell short of anything.

Of course, as a senior who graduates in December of 2008, it would have been nice to beat UNLV.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected]