MAC title comes to Kent State

Doug Gulasy

Credit: Daniel Doherty

Credit: Brian Marks

WATCH a wrap-up video of the MAC Tournament.

There was no need for a dramatic comeback or a game-winning shot. The Kent State men’s basketball team didn’t want to leave any doubt about its Mid-American Conference supremacy.

The Flashes (28-6) defeated Akron 74-55 tonight in the MAC Tournament final to win their fifth conference championship in 10 years and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

“From the very beginning I told the team we’re going to get into the record books (and) we’re going to make history,” said senior forward Mike Scott, who scored 14 points and had 13 rebounds. “This team really has all the pieces that we need to make a push in the tournament, and it just really came together well.”

Tonight’s victory completes a three-game sweep for the Flashes this year against their biggest rivals.

When the Flashes beat Akron 75-69 on Jan. 23, they had to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit. When they won at Akron last Sunday, junior guard Al Fisher had to make a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left.

This game had little tension in the waning moments. A 16-1 run at the end of the first half gave the Flashes a 33-20 lead going into halftime, and Akron never cut its deficit to single digits again.

“It was probably one of the most complete games we played all year,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “To beat a great basketball team like Akron three times, a postseason team, is very difficult to do. Obviously we’re tremendously proud to represent our league and to do that tonight.”

This victory, like most others this season, was marked by a good defensive performance. Akron shot 30.8 percent overall and 5-of-22 from 3-point range.

In their current five-game winning streak, the Flashes have held each of their opponents to fewer than 60 points.

“Defense is what we hang our hat on here,” Christian said. “We understand that in order for us to have a chance to win the game, we have to be able to lock some people down at certain times and use our athleticism. This team has taken a tremendous amount of pride in doing that.”

The large lead in the waning moments gave Christian a chance to put in his reserves and honor his starters at the same time.

With Scott at the free-throw line, Christian took out senior Haminn Quaintance (16 points) and sophomore Chris Singletary (13). They came out to a loud cheer.

After Scott made both free throws, he and junior Al Fisher (12 points) exited to a louder ovation from a crowd made up all night long of mostly Kent State fans.

“We get unbelievable support in this tournament…”Christian said. “It’s just great to watch (the fans) celebrate. You look up and everybody sees behind the bench, but during the game you look up in the top corner and there’s the student body cheering. . It’s the university’s team, and we’re proud to be part of it.”

When the final buzzer sounded, the Flashes ran onto the court, none more noticeable than Scott, who sprinted around the floor and even attempted to turn a cartwheel. The team cut down the nets and took countless pictures with the trophy.

Three players were named to the All-Tournament Team: Fisher, Scott and Quaintance. Quaintance also won Tournament MVP along with the championship.

“(Winning the championship) is just a different feeling because I never really won nothing (before),” Quaintance said.

The Flashes will now wait for the NCAA Tournament brackets to be unveiled Sunday at 6 p.m. From that, they will learn the day, time and opponent for their first NCAA Tournament game this week.

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].