Defense steals victory away from BGSU in night cap

Deanna Stevens

The Kent State men’s basketball team relied, as it usually does, on key defensive stops late in the second half to avoid consecutive losses.

The Flashes’ (10-8, 3-2 Mid-American Conference) defensive energy led to an offensive lift in a 62-61 victory over Bowling Green on Saturday.

“We couldn’t lose this one,” said junior forward Mike Scott, who scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds. “We couldn’t let ourselves down, let coach down, let our fans down. We just had to win this one, and we just had to do what ever it took.”

Such was the mentality when senior guard Armon Gates and junior forward Haminn Quaintance trapped Bowling Green senior guard Martin Samarco with 44 seconds left in the game.

With Kent State leading 61-58, Samarco, who led all scorers with 26, was trapped on the perimeter. The defensive stop led to a Gates steal and an eventual Kent State victory.

“Tonight everyone stayed solid, no one left their feet, everyone just kept the ball in front of them, and that’s what we had to do.” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “Samarco was shooting the ball so well, we just got the feeling if he got it off, it was going in.”

Samarco said that he was not ready for the Flashes’ defensive pressure on that play.

“I was trying to get a shot off,” Samarco said. “But, when I got a ball screen, I wasn’t expecting them to trap it.”

Gates, who was fouled on the break away, split a pair of free throws. Along with two steals, Gates finished with 13 points and shot 4-of-5 from the perimeter.

A sense of urgency kicked in for the Flashes after Bowling Green took a 52-51 lead with about six minutes remaining in the game.

During those final minutes, Gates hit two 3-pointers to regain a lead that would last for the rest of the game.

“I thought that both teams played really hard, but they just went on a run at the end,” Bowling Green coach Dan Dakich said. “Gates hit two big threes at the end. And those were the plays.”

Although the Flashes did everything they could to seal the win, the Falcons did not go away easily.

Down 32-29 at the half, Samarco, the leading scorer in the MAC, came out of the break to outscore Kent State 6-4 by himself.

Sophomore forward Nate Miller came up big for the Falcons with 20 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. As a team, the Falcons outrebounded the Flashes 36-25.

Miller also kept Bowling Green within striking distance when he hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left to pull the Falcons with in one point, 62-61. However, the Falcons were unable to get another shot off before time expired.

While Samarco and Miller combined for 46 of Bowling Green’s 61 points, Kent State’s scoring was more spread out.

Every Kent State player who entered the game scored. Senior guard Omni Smith led the Flashes with 14 points.

Kent State’s bench outscored Bowling Green 36-2, but most of that scoring came from Smith, Gates and Quaintance, three players who generally start for the Flashes.Christian said he didn’t start the players because he chose people he thought would give the Flashes the kind of vigor they needed early. He added that he wanted to cut their minutes because of the high-energy offense the Falcons run.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].