Senior guard uses clutch shooting, defense to secure win
Kent State senior guard Armon Gates took a gamble on defense and followed it with a 3-pointer to help the Flashes pull out a 68-62 win in the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBuster game at George Mason on Saturday.
Playing with four fouls, Gates took a charge from Patriots junior forward Darryl Monroe. The senior then hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to put the Flashes ahead, 64-60, with two minutes left.
On Bill Needle’s post-game radio show, Gates said he “pre-planned” the defensive stop.
“I did it, and it gave us energy,” Gates said. “All the little plays that we needed at the end of the game on defense, we made them.”
After going scoreless in the first half, Gates hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts in the second half and finished with 13 points.
“My team has full confidence in me, and that is what gives me confidence,” Gates said.
But Gates was not the only senior to step up for the Flashes (17-9, 8-3 Mid-American Conference).
Senior guard Omni Smith scored 12 first-half points and finished with a game-high 18. He also added seven assists and six rebounds.
“He did everything except for get you popcorn at halftime,” assistant coach Arnette Jordan joked during Needle’s post-game radio show.
Smith’s 12 points helped give the Flashes a 38-33 lead at the half.
After shooting 58 percent in the first half, Kent State cooled off significantly in the second half and George Mason took advantage, going on a 16-10 run to regain the lead with 10 minutes left.
Patriots senior guard Tim Burns capped the rally with back-to-back 3-pointers.
But consecutive 3-pointers by Gates and freshman guard Rodriquez Sherman hindered George Mason’s momentum.
“Late in the game, when they hit that 3 and the crowd was against us, we needed to respond,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said in a press release. “And we responded. We hadn’t been doing that early in the season, but we did that today.”
Sherman also came up big on the defensive end of the floor, holding George Mason’s leading scorer, Folarin Campbell, to just nine points, five fewer than the junior guard’s average. The Patriots second-leading scorer, forward Will Thomas, had a team-high 12 points.
Kent State sophomore guard Jordan Mincy scored his only two points from the free-throw line in the final 17 seconds to put the Flashes ahead, 67-60.
Although the Flashes average a conference-low 65 percent from the free-throw line, they hit 14-of-17 (82 percent) foul shots against the Patriots.
Sophomore forward Julian Sullinger added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Flashes. Junior forwards Haminn Quaintance and Mike Scott scored six points each. Scott added seven rebounds, and Quaintance added two blocks and two steals.
Contact men’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected]