Flashes keep first place tie in MAC

Kali Price

Double overtime kept the Kent State men’s basketball team tied for the No. 1 spot in the Mid-American Conference yesterday.

The Flashes (18-7, 12-2 MAC) defeated Buffalo (16-9, 6-8 MAC) 111-107, scoring more than 100 for the first time since Feb. 19, 2002 when the Flashes beat Marshall with 116.

“The win was amazing,” junior guard Armon Gates said in a post-game radio interview.

It was the first time since January 2000 the Flashes went into double overtime as well.

Last night’s victory gave the Flashes a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament which is set to begin March 9 in Cleveland.

In the first half, the Flashes led by as many as 14 with three minutes and 29 seconds left, but ended the half up by only two. The Bulls went on a 13-1 run in the last two minutes of the half, bringing the score to 42-40.

“In a timeout, coach Christian looked everyone in the eye and said, ‘This is what it’s all about right here. Let’s get stops. We’re going to make shots, and we’re going to get a victory,'” said Arnette Jordan, Kent State assistant coach, in a post-game radio interview.

At the break, Gates led the Flashes in scoring with 12 points, all of which were from the 3-point arc. Gates went 4-of-5 from 3-point range at halftime.

Gates was up against his former high school teammate, senior guard Roderick Middleton.

“In the first half, I tried to hold (Middleton) down,” Gates said.

Middleton ended the evening with 26 points.

The Bulls took the lead in the second half, going on an early run. The teams then went back and forth until Buffalo finally took a four-point lead with 12:56 left in regulation.

The Bulls led by as many as 13 points with about five minutes to go before the Flashes’ defense made a comeback and held the Bulls at 74.

The Flashes went on a 18-5 run, led by senior forward Kevin Warzynski who made key plays for the Flashes.

Warzynski hit three back-to-back 3-pointers in the last five minutes of regulation.

“Kevin Warzynski stepped up and hit three big 3’s in a row,” Jordan said.

The run ended with junior guard Omni Smith’s three-point play. Smith stole the ball, made the layup and drew the foul. The layup tied the game at 79 and his free throw put the Flashes up by one.

“Tonight was a war,” Jordan said.

Warzynski was later fouled with 0:17 left to bring the Flashes up by one, but the Bulls tied it up at 81. Senior guard DeAndre Haynes missed the easy trey at the buzzer to put the game into the first overtime.

The Bulls went punch for punch in the first overtime and were led by senior guard Calvin Cage.

“Calvin Cage is one of the best players in our league,” Jordan said. “He used his advantage of his speed to get into the paint.”

Cage hit key 3-pointers, one with 0:21 left, to tie the score at 93. Cage finished up with 37 points for the night. He sunk 10-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-9 from the arc. He also hit 12-of-14 free throws.

The Flashes pulled ahead in the second overtime to secure the win with 3:20 left. Warzynski fouled out with a total of 23 points, six assists and six rebounds on the night.

The Flashes will next be in action when they host Butler at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the M.A.C. Center.

“I’m totally exhausted,” Jordan said, “but it was a great effort by the coaching staff and the Kent State players. This right here is a testimony to a championship team.”

Contact sports editor Kali Price at [email protected]