Flashes need one more for championship, NCAA Tournament berth

Sean Joseph

Freshman center Julian Sullinger and senior guard Jay Youngblood celebrate after the game last night at the semifinals at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Kent beat the Ohio Bobcats by a score of 72-59. STEPHANIE J. SMITH | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

A 72-59 victory over Ohio sent the Kent State men’s basketball team to the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and puts them one win away from an NCAA Tournament berth.

The win sets up the third meeting of the season between Kent State and Toledo, who came into the tournament as the seventh seed and pulled an 77-69 upset over No. 2 Akron to advance.

The last time the two teams met, the Flashes put up their worst offensive performance of the season and lost to the Rockets 60-44 in Toledo Feb. 7. But Kent State beat Toledo in their first MAC game of the year Jan. 4 to spur a seven-game winning streak. The teams will meet for the conference title at 7 p.m. today at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Kent State sent Ohio home to await a possible bid to the National Invitational Tournament. Last year Ohio bumped out Kent State in the quarterfinals on their way to winning the title.

The Flashes were led against the Bobcats by senior guard Jay Youngblood and sophomore forward Mike Scott who both scored 15 points. Scott shot a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.

But the unsung leader of the game was freshman guard Jordan Mincy, who took over for senior guard DeAndre Haynes when he got in foul trouble. Even though Mincy only recorded two points, he played 21 minutes and his leadership was hailed by Youngblood.

“It made me happy to see him out there,” Youngblood said.”Jordan (Mincy) is like my little brother, and I saw him run the offense very well today. I’m really proud of him.”

Mincy said it was hard for him not to go for the heroic plays Haynes is known for.

“I just wanted to come out and not do anything too dramatic,” Mincy said. “I wanted to lead the team by playing simple.”

Senior forward Kevin Warzynski, MAC Sixth Man of the Year, helped out with 14 points, and the Flashes’ bench outscored the Bobcats’ 20-8.

“Congratulations to Kent State,” Ohio coach Tim O’Shea said. “There was a reason they were the No. 1 seed coming into this, and I think they proved that tonight. I was proud of the way we fought against them, but I think the best team won.

“If they’re fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, they have a chance to win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament and represent the MAC very, very well.”

O’Shea said the difference was Kent State’s second-chance shots. The Flashes outscored the Bobcats 16-9 off offensive rebounds, even though Ohio out-rebounded Kent State 39-34.

Tomorrow night’s game will be Kent State’s sixth title game in eight years and 12th all time. They most recently won the championship to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 1999, 2001 and 2002. In 2003 and 2004 the Flashes lost in the championship game.

This season only was the second time in school history the team won the regular-season championship. The last time they did so was in 2002 when they went on to win the tournament and advance to the Elite Eight.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Sean Joseph at [email protected]