A change in composure, ending

Doug Gulasy

The Flashes never trail in home win against Ohio

Jim Christian, Kent State men’s basketball coach yells to the players from the bench at the game Saturday against Ohio University. Tracy Tucholski | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

What a difference four weeks — and a change of venue — makes.

The Kent State men’s basketball team defeated Ohio University 72-62 at the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, four weeks to the day since a 71-59 loss at Ohio on Jan. 19.

“I think the difference was that down there we didn’t play with a lot of composure or poise, and we just didn’t play very well that night,” head coach Jim Christian said. “Tonight I thought that our team was more focused and played with a lot more poise, especially when they made a run at us. I think that just shows the maturity of this team.”

The Flashes (21-5, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) never trailed Saturday after beginning the game on a 7-0 run. The score was tied just once, at 8-8.

Sophomore guard Chris Singletary hit a 3-pointer on the Flashes’ first possession to give the team the lead it would never relinquish. Singletary finished with 16 points, four assists, three rebounds, three steals and a block.

“With anybody, the first shot is kind of big if you hit it,” Singletary said. “You’re going to feel good about yourself.”

“(Senior forward Haminn Quaintance) gave me a good pass, I stepped in and knocked it down. It felt like I was hot just off that one shot right there. I fed off of it and just kept playing hard.”

For the game, the Flashes shot 55.6 percent. They made 65 percent of their shots in the second half, a shooting performance needed because Ohio (16-9, 7-5) went on several runs, including a 9-2 run to cut its deficit to two points.

“I thought they were on top of their game,” Ohio coach Tim O’Shea said. “Late in the shot clock, they made some tough 3s. We had a couple trap situations where they found open people under the basket for dunks. They played really, really well.”

Junior guard Al Fisher was one player O’Shea singled out as hitting tough shots. Fisher got into the lane several times for floaters and pulled up for jump shots on his way to a team-high 17 points.

“When you get in the lane it opens up shots for everyone else too, being able to drive and dish out to shooters like (sophomore) Mike McKee, (junior) Jordan Mincy (and) Chris Singletary,” Fisher said. “They step up and hit the 3s (and) it’s great; you just get on a run.”

The team shot 7-of-19 on 3-pointers in the game, including 4-of-8 in the second half.

But the Flashes also made some easy shots. They attacked Ohio’s defense with passes inside for layups and dunks. Quaintance and senior forward Mike Scott had dunks on back-to-back Kent State possessions after Ohio cut the score to 34-30 early in the second half.

“We’re a good basketball team when we move the ball,” Christian said. “When the ball moves quickly and we can stretch and spread the floor, I think we’re a pretty good basketball team on offense.”

Defensively, the Flashes tightened down against Ohio guard Bubba Walther in the second half. Walther scored 22 points, but only six of those came in the second half.

“In the second half, I thought we did a much better job on him,” Christian said. “He still hit shots — that’s what good shooters do — but I thought they were a little more contested.”

O’Shea said many times that he thought the Flashes were at the top of their game and that they had played better than he had seen them play all year on film.

But Christian and his players believe the team can get even better.

“We can get a lot better,” Fisher said. “(We need to) just keep working, come and practice hard every day, keep working on what we need to work on and just get better.”

Game notes

The MAC grieves for one of its members

Tributes for Mid-American Conference member Northern Illinois were shown in many forms Saturday, in the wake of Thursday’s Northern Illinois campus shooting where five people and the gunman died. Before the game, a moment of silence was held. Members of the Kent State athletic department and the coaches wore black pins, and Kent State coach Jim Christian wore a red and black tie to represent the Huskies’ colors.

One short of a thousand

Saturday’s victory was No. 999 in Kent State basketball history. The Flashes will try for win No. 1000 when they play at Buffalo on Tuesday night.

Almost a packed M.A.C.

The announced attendance for Saturday was 6,130 fans. It was the second-largest crowd this year at the M.A.C. Center, behind only the Akron game Jan. 23. Christian made sure to point this out when he talked about the difference between Saturday’s game and the one the Flashes lost at Ohio on Jan. 19. “We had 6,100 (people) here today rooting for us,” Christian said. “They had 7,000 down there rooting for them.”

Playing for the conference

Following Tuesday’s game at Buffalo, the Flashes will have a major non-conference test. They play at No. 21 St. Mary’s on Saturday night as part of the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBuster games. Sophomore guard Chris Singletary said the Flashes will be playing not only for themselves but for the MAC as a whole. “I think we’ve been doing a good job of that, the whole conference, as far as getting some big wins on other big-time schools and big-time conferences,” Singletary said. “I think Saturday night is going to be big for Kent State and also for the Mid-American Conference.”

Contact sports reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].