Kent State’s showdown with Miami ends up a first-half disaster

Matt Goul

Flashes fall 42-11 at halftime against the RedHawks and never recover

OXFORD — The biggest game of the season turned into one of the biggest blowouts of the season. The cake and championship T-shirts went to Miami in its 70-45 win over Kent State last night.

Miami (18-8, 12-5 Mid-American Conference) took a 31-point halftime lead and coasted to a share of the MAC East crown. The loss was Kent State’s worst of the season.

Miami coach Charlie Coles called the first half the finest performance he’s seen from a team he’s coached.

“I don’t know that I did anything to get them ready,” Coles said. “I tried to manage practice time, but you don’t know about that. Our players, to their credit, boy, did they play.”

The loss was nothing new for any team visiting Millett Hall. Miami finished the season undefeated at home.

The RedHawks still have the regular season MAC title to play for Saturday. They are at last-place Marshall. The Flashes (18-11, 10-7 MAC), meanwhile, will have Ohio at home and need to earn a first-round home game. Kent State is sixth in the MAC, tied for fourth with Buffalo in the East. The top eight teams get either a bye or home game in the first round Monday.

A win over Miami would have forced a four-way tie in the division and a five-way tie for the first place in the overall conference standings.

“It hurts,” junior guard Jay Youngblood said. “We were right there for the championship like they were, and we didn’t match their intensity.”

What was worst about Kent State’s first-half demise? Take your pick.

Miami’s 8-0 run to start the game was only an appetizer.

The Flashes made only one of their first 19 shot attempts in the first half. Junior center Kevin Warzynski’s jump shot five minutes into the game cut Miami’s lead to 10-4. It was their only field goal for the first 16 minutes of the game. By the time another one came, the deficit was already 30. The RedHawks went on a 23-point run after Warzynski’s basket.

Miami reached 40 before Kent State could get 10. The 10-point plateau was finally reached when Youngblood hit two free throws with 19 seconds left in the half. Meanwhile, Miami fans from behind the basket chanted “double digits” as the free throws were made.

“We didn’t come out and play with confidence in the first five minutes of the game,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “We didn’t execute well, and it snowballed. It just spread throughout the whole team. It got to the point where no one on our team could make a shot, from anywhere.”

Maybe it’s just the basket in front of Miami’s band and students that has an adverse effect to the Flashes’ play. Kent State was down by 17 at halftime when it played at Millett Hall last year.

Only the Flashes’ field-goal percentage was lower than their point total in the first half last night. They shot 9 percent from the floor on a 2-of-22 effort. By the halftime buzzer, Miami built a 42-11 lead.

“We’ll never have that kind of lead again,” Coles said, “not in this league.”

Kent State took the first 4:25 of the second half to match its 11-point production of the first half. The second half was opened on a 7-0 run before Miami’s lead was cut to 21. That was the closest the deficit got.

The 45 points scored were the least by a Kent State team since a 2001 NCAA Tournament loss to Cincinnati, 66-43, in the second round. The Flashes had 42 last night before sophomore guard Mechie Johnson hit a 3-pointer before the final buzzer.

Contact men’s basketball reporter Matt Goul at [email protected].