Flashes soar over Falcons

Sean Joseph

Kent State senior guard Jay Youngblood fights Bowling Green forward Erik Marschall for the ball during last night’s game at Bowling Green. Youngblood helped lead the Flashes to a 82-66 win with 18 points. Kent State will host Miami. AMANDA SOWARDS | DAIL

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The Kent State men’s basketball team got revenge against the only Mid-American Conference East Division team to beat it so far this season.

The Flashes also made this season their eighth consecutive 20-win season in their 82-66 win last night at Bowling Green.

They are in the elite group with 11 other teams that have such a streak: Arizona, Connecticut, Creighton, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Syracuse.

“We’re proud of it – this was a tough one,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “At one point we were six and five. The guys never lost confidence in each other, and the coaches never lost confidence in the team.

“The senior class should be especially proud of doing this all four years, but we didn’t play this season to win 20 games. We want more, which will hopefully come later.”

Senior guard DeAndre Haynes agreed and said it feels great to have 20 wins, but there is so much the team has not accomplished since he has played for the Flashes, such as a MAC Championship or an NCAA tournament birth.

“It’s a tremendous attribute to Coach Christian and all the student athletes,” said Laing Kennedy, Kent State director of athletics. “Everyone associated with Kent State basketball should be pleased. To (win 20 games) year in and year out, especially with three different coaches, is a tremendous accomplishment.”

After a sloppy first half by both squads in which the Falcons turned the ball over 15 times and the Flashes went 7-for-17 from inside the 3-point arc, the Flashes dominated in the second half.

Bowling Green was able to pull to within five points of Kent State with a 9-2 run, but senior forward Kevin Warzynski grabbed the rebound on a fast break that could have allowed Bowling Green within three. Junior guard Omni Smith then converted a 3-point play for his only points of the night.

Warzynski recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, making up for sophomore Mike Scott, who had been the driving force behind the Flashes’ defense but was only able to grab two rebounds. Christian said Scott was feeling tired last night after playing a total of 83 minutes combined in the previous two games.

“Tonight’s game was a difficult test because we played two overtime games in a row and then had one day to turn around and play again,” Christian said.

Fatigue was felt by most of the players on the floor, Christian said, and 10 players posted minutes for Kent State by the end of the night. The team relied on its seniors, but freshman guard Jordan Mincy stepped in during the first half to spark the offense. He hit two 3-point shots to score six of the team’s 15 points and finished with a career high of seven points.

“We played the first five minutes with a lack of discipline,” Haynes said. “And players like Jordan Mincy stepped in to fill some shoes.”

Kent State now has seven wins on the road against MAC opponents, only losing on Feb. 7 at Toledo. The Flashes have one road game left on their regular season schedule against Akron March 4.

The Flashes will play their last two home games of the season, first against Miami Saturday and then Ohio Tuesday. They now have a half-game lead on Akron for the No. 1 spot in the MAC and have already secured a first-round bye and matchup in Cleveland for the MAC Tournament.

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