KSU overcomes early deficit to defeat Spartans

Doug Gulasy

The Kent State men’s basketball team probably didn’t want to fall behind by nearly double digits before its game at UNC Greensboro Saturday was two minutes old.

The Flashes probably didn’t want to trail for the entire first half while allowing the Spartans to hit seven 3-pointers. Then they probably didn’t want to have UNC Greensboro creep back into the game in the final minutes.

All three things happened Saturday evening, but the Flashes still managed to defeat UNC Greensboro 71-64.

“If you’re going to be a great team, you have to be able to go on the road and win games,” Kent State assistant coach Geno Ford told Bill Needle during the postgame show on WNIR radio. “And you can’t just go beat the bad teams on the road. These guys were picked to win their league … This is a great conference, the Southern Conference, that we knew they would have great players.”

The game did not begin well for the Flashes (6-2). UNC Greensboro made its first three 3-point attempts of the night to take a 9-0 lead not even two minutes into the game. The Spartans made 7-of-15 3-pointers in the half.

For the rest of the first half, the Flashes narrowed the Spartans’ lead several times only to see the Spartans widen it again.

Junior forward Julian Sullinger kept the Flashes in the game in the first half, and Ford said “you could argue (he) won the game for us.” Sullinger scored nine points, had six rebounds and caused Spartans star forward Kyle Hines to commit three fouls in the first half.

“Whenever I came into the game I just wanted to give them a spark off the bench,” Sullinger told Needle. “And (I did) whatever I had to do to do that — not necessarily points, just maybe coming around, diving on the floor for a loose ball, taking a charge — anything I could try to do to try to help our team get back into the game.”

KSU closed the half on a 6-0 run, using a 3-pointer by sophomore Mike McKee and a 3-point play by senior Haminn Quaintance. That enabled the Flashes to go into halftime down just one point at 34-33.

“Coach knew we could play better than what we were playing, so he was a little bit on us (at halftime),” Sullinger said. “But at the same time he just said, ‘Build off the momentum that we just got.'”

The Flashes continued their run by scoring the first nine points of the second half and never trailed after that.

Still, the Spartans made a comeback, narrowing the gap to 67-64 with 1:13 left, but the Flashes made four free throws after that to win.

In the second half, Kent State shot 60 percent (15-of-25) from the field and held UNC Greensboro to 31 percent shooting (9-of-29) shooting. The Spartans only made two of their 14 3-point attempts.

Senior forward Mike Scott had 15 points to lead the Flashes, while sophomore guard Rodriquez Sherman scored 14 and Sullinger added 11.

Quaintance had a large impact with 13 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. He held Hines to 14 points, below his season average of 18.8 points a game.

“‘Q’ made huge defensive plays,” Ford said. “The kid he was guarding, Hines, is a great player. There were a couple of NBA teams here tonight to see him. Any time you play someone of that caliber and you get four blocks, three steals, countless deflections and 10 rebounds — if you had to say one guy was terrific, it would have been ‘Q,’ but we got contributions from many guys.”

The victory was the Flashes’ third in a row, and Ford hopes it will help the team down the road.

“This is a win that would be like winning at Akron or like winning at Miami or like winning at Ohio University, a top premier team in your league, on the road, that you’ve got to gut out,” he said. “Hopefully we learn from this and we can duplicate it and do it again.”


-Seeing double-double

Senior forward Haminn Quaintance recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 rebounds, season-highs in both categories. He joined senior forward Mike Scott as the only two Flashes to record double-doubles this season. Scott had 17 points and 10 rebounds against Coppin State on Nov. 18.

-A record-breaker

With the victory over UNC Greensboro, Kent State coach Jim Christian moved past former Toledo coach Jerry Bush for the highest winning percentage in Mid-American Conference history. Bush recorded a .6861 winning percentage with a 129-59 record from 1947-54. Christian, in his sixth season as Flashes coach, has a record of 116-53 for a .6863 winning percentage.

-Still knocking them down

Scott made all three of his free-throw attempts Saturday. For the season, Scott is shooting 90.9 percent (40-of-44) from the free-throw line. He leads the team with 14.9 points per game.

-On the other hand …

Kent State as a whole shot 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from the line in Saturday’s game. Coming into Saturday, the Flashes shot 72.2 percent on free throws.

-Script was flipped

Usually the Flashes’ defense dominates opponents in the first half, which wasn’t the case Saturday. UNC Greensboro scored 34 points and shot nearly 43 percent in the first half, compared to season averages of 23.4 and 35 percent, respectively, for Kent State opponents coming into the game.

-Deficit didn’t matter

Saturday’s game was the first time this season when the Flashes won despite trailing at halftime. Previously, they had a record of 0-2 when down at the half and 5-0 when leading.

-Not out of the Woods

Junior forward Rashad Woods missed Saturday’s game because of an apparent minor foot injury.

Schiller 12/2/07

RPaasch 12/2/07