Flashes, defense rebound against Illinois State

Jonas Fortune

After yesterday’s difficult loss to Xavier, the last thing the Kent State men’s basketball team wanted to do was end the Chicago Invitational Challenge with a loss – so they didn’t.

Behind a defense that only allowed six field goals in the final nine minutes, the Flashes beat Illinois State 65-59 tonight at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

“It’s huge,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “Anytime after a loss you want to see how your team responds. We needed a win, and we found a way to get one tonight.”

Both teams seemed to struggle throughout the first 13 minutes of play as they traded shots with one another. With just six minutes left until the half – and the game tied at 18 – the Flashes were finally able to sustain a run.

Senior forward Haminn Quaintance looked over top of the Illinois State defense and found guard Al Fisher underneath. The junior quickly turned the assist into two points. Quaintance then found fellow senior Mike Scott, who finished with 18 points, for a 3-pointer on the next offensive possession. After junior Rashad Woods chipped in a quick five points, the Flashes were on a 10-0 run. They outscored the Redbirds 15-6 to end the first half.

In the second half it was time for the Flashes’ defense to step up. Just a day before, the Flashes struggled against Xavier. Defensive miscues and blown coverage assignments allowed the game to slip away in the second half. That was not the case against Illinois State.

With nearly nine minutes remaining the Redbirds connected on three consecutive 3-pointers, then tied the game at 47 on a Mike Vandello layup.

With the game tied, the Flashes began to suffocate Illinois State, holding them to just six field goals down the stretch and 38 percent shooting (11-29) for the half.

“That was the goal today, (which) was to play 40 minutes of great defense,” Christian said. “We’ve done a phenomenal job in first halves of games and not a good job in second halves and that was the challenge for our team today. In the second half (Illinois State) shot (38) percent, which is tremendous.”

The impressive defensive stand couldn’t have been done without Quaintance. The junior form Sarasota, Fla. was able to slow the Redbirds forwards and then supply the much-needed baskets on the offensive end. He finished the game with 12 points, eight rebounds, four assist and three steals.

“I think we finally have ‘Q’ on the right track,” Scott said. “He hasn’t been playing as well as he can the first couple of games, but I think tonight he finally found his confidence. He was making moves in the post, he was ‘D’-ing up and he was making moves on the post by himself . He did a great job. He definitely played really well.”

Contact sports editor Jonas Fortune at [email protected].