Flashes route their way to tournament title

Jonas Fortune

The Kent State Men’s basketball team took first place at the inaugural Kent State Classic by cruising to a 74-47 victory against the University of New Hampshire Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center.

The second victory in as many days was truly a team victory for Jim Christian’s young squad. Nine players saw extensive playing time, and Mike Scott, Haminn Quaintance and Armon Gates all scored in double figures.

“Everyone was trying to help each other out, talking, communicating with each other, and nobody pointed fingers; that’s the main thing,” senior guard and tournament MVP Omni Smith said. “We had fun playing together today.”

After controlling the pace against Shawnee State the night before, Smith turned in another solid performance. He scored just six points but found his teammates for a career-high seven assists.

“Points is nothing. We’re all happy out there.” Smith said. “We’re playing good team defense. Mike Scott got it going. Gates got it going tonight.”

Gates’ hot shooting was one of the decisive blows against a pesky New Hampshire team that trailed by nine at the Half. With 40 seconds left in the first half, the senior guard connected on his first 3-pointer of the game. He wouldn’t miss again from long distance the rest of the game.

Behind the inside play of juniors Scott and Quaintance, the Flashes quickly began the second half with a 13-2 run and never looked back. Gates connected on three more 3-pointers, and red-shirt freshman Mike McKee hit a 3-pointer of his own, putting an exclamation point on what had become a 31-point lead with nearly 10 minutes remaining.

Coach Christian wasn’t too surprised by his team’s second-half outburst.

“We got the same great shots in the second half that we got in the first half,” he said. “It’s just we made them.”

After two consecutive home victories, Christian was more excited about the smiles on the players’ faces.

“Its great to see the guys have fun,” Christian said. “I really thought they were putting too much pressure on themselves. I want everyone to expect to win, want to win, but not kill each other trying to do it.

“When you play well, it’s a lot more fun.”

Gates, who made the all-tournament team, led all scorers with 16 points. Scott and Quaintance finished the game with 12 and 11 points, respectively, to help pace the balanced Flashes’ attack.

The Wildcats were led by seniors Jermaine Anderson, 13 points, and the Australian-born Blagoj Janev. After dropping 22 points on Elon Friday night, Janev was held to just two points in the first half, but he finished the night with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Kent State Classic was the first in-season tournament held by Kent State since the 1958-1959 season. The Flashes were 0-2 in that tournament, losing to Michigan and Wyoming.

Contact assistant sports editor Jonas Fortune at [email protected]