Kent State shows up late, but wins even later

Joe Harrington

It took about 15 minutes, but the Kent State men’s basketball team finally started the 2008 Mid-American Conference season, defeating Buffalo 68-63 Sunday at the M.A.C. Center.

The Bulls took advantage of early turnovers by the Flashes, which led to an eight-point halftime lead. Buffalo junior guard Andy Robinson played arguably his best half of the year, scoring 22 points in the first half. Robinson helped Buffalo build a 13-point lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Meanwhile, the Flashes struggled, committing 11 turnovers and shooting just 34 percent from the field. For a span of nearly eight minutes, the Flashes didn’t score a single point.

“It was definitely a very, very rough start,” senior forward Mike Scott said. “It’s very out of character for us to come out the way that we did.”

The second half was a different story. Buffalo has struggled to maintain big leads all season and that didn’t change Sunday. Kent State coach Jim Christian said he was disappointed in how his team opened the MAC regular season, but he did find some positives.

“The thing I’m proud about is we challenged them at halftime and again we rallied back and found a way to win the basketball game,” Christian said.

Kent State shot 55 percent in the second half and limited Robinson to just three points. The Flashes threw out its man defense in the second half, favoring the zone in order to frustrate Robinson, a strategy that worked to perfection. Christian credited sophomore guard Rodriquez Sherman with the success of the zone defense.

“Rod is a good zone player,” Christian said. “He understands what we’re trying to do and he was aware of where Robinson was on the floor.”

The Bulls shot 36 percent in the second half and were out rebounded 22 to 13.

With 11 minutes left to play in the second half, Kent State tied the game at 46 after junior guard Al Fisher’s layup. Scott, who had nine points in a span of 2 and half minutes, gave Kent State the lead 48-46.

The Bulls came back to take the lead 56-55, but on the next Kent State possession sophomore Mike McKee hit a 3-pointer that would give the Flashes the lead for good.

Kent State improves to 11-3 for the season, but now every win is crucial as the MAC regular season is finally underway.

“You know when you start conference play that teams are going to come out and compete,” Christian said. “We talked about that to our guys and I was obviously disappointed in how we came out and competed. We have to learn our lesson and move on.”

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected]