Poise the problem in first conference loss

Doug Gulasy

Slow start, missed opportunity keys to loss

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Several factors led to the Kent State men’s basketball team’s 71-59 loss Saturday at Ohio.

Turnovers, missed shots and a hot-shooting Ohio team all played a big role in the loss, but Kent State coach Jim Christian focused on a different area after the game.

More specifically, Christian said his team hadn’t played with the mentality necessary to come out of a game with a victory.

“We didn’t play with any poise today,” Christian said. “You have to do that, especially on the road, especially when a team makes a run and we just didn’t do that the entire night. We have a lot of things to learn from it.”

The game got put out when three technical fouls — two on sophomore guard Chris Singletary and one on the Kent State bench — were called on one play.

But by then, the game was already in serious jeopardy. The Flashes led 7-2 early, but the rest of the first half was all Ohio. The Bobcats went on a 14-2 run to take control and went into half-time up 36-25.

Ohio guard Bert Whittington IV came into the game averaging 7.1 points a game, but he scored 16 in the first half. He knocked down four 3-pointers in the half and five in the game, most of which were wide-open opportunities.

“He’s a good player, (and) he got hot,” Christian said. “We did a bad job on him early, got him going a little bit and he’s a very aggressive player.

“We did a poor job defensively in the first half in general. They out-hustled us (and) they out-competed us in this basketball game, and you can’t have that happen.”

The Flashes (14-4, 3-1 MAC) shot 36.8 percent (7-of-19) in the first half. They made five of their first seven shots but shot just 2-of-12 for the rest of the half.

“They had a lot of open shots, and they were knocking them down,” said junior guard Al Fisher, who paced the Flashes with 15 points. “We had some open shots and we weren’t (making them).”

Even with the half-time deficit, the Flashes had a chance to possibly win the game before all hell broke loose.

Kent State was down five, 60-55, when Fisher missed a floater that could have made it a one-possession game.

While Whittington made a breakaway layup, two technicals were called on Singletary at the other end of the floor. When Christian argued the call, another technical was whistled on the Flashes.

Ohio’s Jerome Tillman made five of the six technical free throws.

“That little session pretty much hurt, that little session where they shot like 20,000 technical foul shots,” senior forward Mike Scott said. “That was a crazy situation. I think that pretty much took the wind out of the sails.”

Before Fisher’s missed floater, which resulted in the Ohio fast break opportunity, sophomore guard Rodriquez Sherman and junior forward Rashad Woods passed up open 3-point shots.

“Two good shots by two good shooters — those are shots that they have to take,” Christian said. “I don’t know why they passed them up. They have to shoot the shots in those situations, but for whatever reason they passed them up. Again, those are the things that we have to point out.”

Scott said that it was encouraging to see the Flashes make a run at the Bobcats at the end, especially with a game tomorrow against Akron quickly approaching.

“At least we put ourselves in position; we could’ve won,” Scott said. “We didn’t get blown out. That could have definitely been a setback.

“I think guys are still positive. Guys are hurt, definitely; I’m hurt by the loss. But we had a chance to win. We were down by (five) at one point, then chaos started breaking out.”

But, as Christian said, the Flashes will need to play better to win tomorrow and in other future conference games.

“We all know it — we got out-competed today,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. Wednesday night’s not going to be any different; (Akron is) going to come in there and compete. We have to come in and compete if we want to be successful in this league.”

Contact men’s basketball reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected].