Smith’s big night comes up short against Blue Devils

Deanna Stevens

Even with a career night for senior guard Omni Smith, the Kent State men’s basketball team was unable to pull the upset at No. 6 ranked Duke.

Smith went 14-20 from the floor to lead the Flashes (5-4) with a career-high 33 points in a 79-72 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Kent State coach Jim Christian said the Flashes needed Smith to get rid of some of Duke’s defensive pressure.

“He’s our best guy at relieving pressure and creative basketball so I thought he could make some plays,” Christian said. “I didn’t know he could do that, he had a tremendous performance tonight.”

Smith not only played to his strengths in the paint, he also spread the defense by going 5-8 from the 3-point line, including a long ball early in the second half to give the Flashes a 49-47 lead.

But even with Smith’s performance, Christian said the Flashes’ tried to do too much, which led to18 turnovers.

“When you play a team of this nature, you’ve got to maximize every possession.” Christian said. “And you’ve got to make shots at the basket in those situations. You can’t try to make a home run play where you turn it over and they get a steal which leads to one of their runs.”

Smith said the miscues were a product of the environment.

“Being at Duke, you get an adrenaline rush. We came out too excited,” Smith said.

With ten minutes left in the second half, the Blue Devils (10-1) went on one of their patented runs. They regained the lead with a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Greg Paulus. Then sophomore forward Josh McRoberts took over.

“We play in the MAC, we don’t see guys like that,” Christian said about McRoberts. “He’s backing guys down, he’s firing in the passes, he’s scoring in the post, he’s an All-American and he played like it.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said it was McRoberts play that turned the game around for his team.

“You have a better chance of winning when somebody makes plays like that,” Krzyzewski said. “That was big in Josh’s development with where we need him to be.”

McRoberts finished the game with 19 points and six rebounds. He had 14 of those points in the final ten minutes of the game.

“Our guys hit big free throws down the stretch,” Krzyzewski added. ” We had to do a lot of good things. They didn’t lose the game; we won the game.”

Unlike Duke, which finished the game 23-32 from the line, Kent State was not as successful. The Flashes made only six free throws in 11 attempts.

“To play a team like this, when you get your opportunities you have got to make your free throws,” Christian said. “We’ve got to get better at that.”

Junior forward Haminn Quaintance also earned a career best, but his was in the assist column. Quaintance had 10 assists, along with 10 points, for his 21st career double-double.

But, the forward did most of his damage in the first half, after ‘hitting a wall’ in the second.

Quaintance has been recovering from a groin injury, and had miminimal practice time. Christian said that was clearly an issue later in the game.

Freshman guard Chris Singletary also had a career game with 11 points.

“He came in and guarded very well tonight,” Christian said. “He gave us a lot of energy off the bench and played extremely hard.”

The Blue Devils also had a big play from a young player. Freshman guard Jon Scheyer hit three 3-pointers in the first half to give Duke an early lead. He finished with 17 points.

Contact sports reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected]