Flashes fall in first round of NCAA Tournament

Doug Gulasy

The Kent State men’s basketball team lost 71-58 to UNLV in its opening round game of the NCAA Tournament at Qwest Center in Omaha Thursday.


One word best describes the Kent State men’s basketball team’s performance in its NCAA Tournament opener today against UNLV:


The Flashes (28-7) scored just 10 points in the first half and never could make it a close game, losing 71-58 to the Rebels at Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

“The first half of basketball was just so unlike how we played all year,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “We just came out, played with no confidence (and) just made silly mistake after silly mistake. UNLV is a great team (and) took advantage of it.”

With their 10 first half points, the Flashes tied the record for the fewest points in a half in modern NCAA Tournament history. They share it with Wake Forest, which scored 10 points in the first half in a 2001 loss to Butler.

In scoring just 10 points, the Flashes shot 20.8 percent (5-of-24) and committed 17 turnovers to just one assist. That added up to a 31-10 halftime deficit, even though the defense played reasonably well, holding UNLV to 39.4 percent shooting.

“We didn’t come out the way we wanted to come out,” junior guard Al Fisher said. “We (were) making silly turnovers and it seemed like it just kept happening. We (were) getting a couple shots we wanted right on top of the rim but it wasn’t falling. It happens like that sometimes.”

The team didn’t struggle offensively in the second half, as the Flashes scored 48 points after halftime.

But their defense wasn’t as strong. UNLV scored 40 points of its own as the Rebels shot 66.7 percent in the second half.

No matter what the Flashes did, they just couldn’t seem to cut into the lead significantly. They couldn’t trim the deficit to fewer than 20 points until less than nine minutes remained in the game.

Each time the Flashes scored, UNLV answered. The Rebels did so in all sorts of ways, from easy layups to a banked 3-pointer by forward Joe Darger.

“We felt that we (could) just keep fighting and try and make it a game,” senior forward Haminn Quaintance said. “Unfortunately, we never quite did make it a game.”

A late flurry of 3-pointers, led mostly by senior forward Mike Scott, enabled the Flashes to make the score as close as 13 points, but they could get no closer.

“I was proud of our kids in the second half because we battled,” Christian said. “We could easily quit and they don’t, they just continue to play hard and fight and play the entire game.”

Scott ended his four-year Kent State career with a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds). Quaintance had 12 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Chris Singletary (12 points) and Fisher (10) also scored in double figures.

The Flashes end the season with the second-most wins in school history, behind just the 30 of the 2001-02 team.

“Unfortunately, we just played poorly in the last game we played,” Christian said. “And I’m not going to let anybody take anything away from (our season) because I think these guys should be proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]