Men’s basketball falls to No.1 North Carolina

Doug Gulasy

Senior forward Haminn Quaintance gets the tip off in Wednesday night’s game against North Carolina. The Flashes lost to the Tar Heels, 90-61. DANNY DOHERTY | KENTNEWSNET.COM

Credit: DKS Editors

The Kent State men’s basketball team faced a difficult test last night, with a nationally televised road game against the top-ranked team in the nation. To win, the Flashes would have to play a nearly perfect game.

The Flashes (10-3) lost to No. 1 North Carolina (14-0), 90-61, in front of 20,356 people at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

“You have to do everything right when you play the No. 1 team in the country,”senior forward Mike Scott said. “You have to do every single thing right because they capitalize on each mistake. They don’t miss; that’s the reason they play for North Carolina.”

North Carolina used a pressure defense to force Kent State mistakes and missed shots, which the Tar Heels converted into points off of fast breaks.

“We didn’t play good, but a lot of it was due to their pressure,” senior forward Haminn Quaintance said.

North Carolina outrebounded KSU by 10 (40-30), and the Flashes committed 19 turnovers.

“We did make some careless turnovers tonight, and you canít do that against a great basketball team,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “Guys weren’t trying to turn the ball over; they just happened.

“Some of that was obviously due to their pressure and their making great plays, but we were a little tentative today. I don’t know if we had five travels all year, (but) we had maybe five or six in the first half. That’s uncharacteristic of our team.”

Another problem, Christian said, was that the Flashes missed some open shots that they usually make.

KSU never led, but they did stay competitive with the Tar Heels for spurts of the game, drawing within single digits several times.

North Carolina did a lot of damage by going on several scoring runs throughout the game to stay in control.

“That’s one of the strengths of their basketball team,” Christian said. “They can withstand your run and put a run on you that is hard to stop. They really know how to increase the lead, and that’s the sign of a great basketball team.”

The Tar Heels went on runs of 13-2, 12-0, 10-2, 10-2 and 11-2 in the game. Included in North Carolina’s 12-0 run, which stretched over five minutes midway through the first half, was the most controversial play of the game.

Kent State junior guard Al Fisher turned the ball over, resulting in a North Carolina fast break opportunity.

North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough went up for a dunk, but Fisher met Hansbrough in the air and fouled him hard, sending the Tar Heels’ leading scorer crashing to the ground.

The referees called an intentional foul on Fisher and for the rest of the game, the North Carolina fans booed Fisher every time he touched the ball.

“From my perspective, it looked like (Fisher) tried to block the ball and kind of hit (Hansbrough) with his body,” Christian said. “Al’s not a dirty player and I don’t think he would intentionally try to do that to somebody.

“If I felt he would have done that, then he would have been done for the night and we would have some problems with that, but I don’t think that was his intent.”

Quaintance led the Flashes with 20 points and added six rebounds, five assists, five steals and three blocks.

Quaintance also had the responsibility of guarding Hansbrough. Though Hansbrough scored 25 points, 11 of those came from the free-throw line.

“‘Q,'” he’s the defensive player of the year in the MAC, there’s no doubt about that,” Scott said. “I think he played very very well against Hansbrough-better than a lot of guys have in this country.”

“I’m a little faster than Hansbrough, so that’s my strength against Hansbrough,” said Quaintance, who called Hansbrough a “complete package” as a player. “I can beat him to spots instead of trying to battle with him because he’s stronger. I’ve got to use my advantages.”

Scott added 13 points for the Flashes, who will begin Mid-American Conference play Sunday when they host Buffalo at 2 p.m. in the M.A.C. Center.

“There were times when you could see that we can play with any team in the country,” Scott said. “Obviously, you look at the score (and) it’s pretty bad, but we’ve got to take the positives from it and pick up on the things that we did well and just build off of it.”

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