Flat ending for Flashes

Matt Goul

CLEVELAND – Kent State have started a new trend.

But it will not last.

Ohio was spotted 11 points before eliminating the Flashes, 62-55, in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals last night at Gund Arena. The loss ended a four-year streak of advance to the MAC title game. It also ended a 20-12 season – excluding the possibility of a berth in the National Invitation Tournament – which coach Jim Christian had six new players. It was the youngest team Kent State had in its seven straight 20-win seasons.

This will be the first time Christian and junior point guard DeAndre Haynes do not advance to the MAC tournament final. Both, in their third seasons, experienced championship game losses for the first two.

“This one hurt the most because it was the first round,” Haynes said. “We’re used to being in the final game and wanted to get there for J.E. (Jason Edwin), our only senior, and get the win for him.”

Yesterday’s loss was not the first time Kent State came out flat to start a game. Its previous loss, at Miami a week ago, came with the slowest of starts in an 11-point first half. Even a win over Ohio to close the regular season last Saturday came with a slow start.

But it was not until the final 10 minutes of Thursday night’s game that Ohio took control with a scoring spree.

It started with Mychal Green sinking a fadeaway jump shot, giving the Bobcats a 39-38 lead. Ohio did not seize control until Nate Gerwig was called for an intentional foul on Leon Williams soon after Green’s shot. Williams took position on Gerwig, drawing a push. His shot fell. His free throws for the technical foul did, too.

“He just has to understand what’s going on the floor,” Christian said of Gerwig’s aggression. “It was an aggressive play, but overly aggressive. A good call.”

Ohio added more, establishing a 49-38 lead when Williams score again. Williams scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. The run ended with 12 straight points. And Kent State’s hope for a MAC title faded with it.

The breakdown overshadowed a rally from the Bobcats’ quick start, which can be credited to Kent State’s subpar shooting.

The Flashes missed their first seven shots from the floor. Six of those attempts were 3s. No one converted a 3 until Marcus Crenshaw ended Ohio’s 11-0 start. He added another to erase Ohio’s start with an 8-0 run.

The slow start, via shooting, did not teach any lessons. Three-pointers kept coming. Kent State took 15 of them, hitting four, in the first half. When junior guard Jay Youngblood tied the score at 17, it came on a 3. Youngblood, who scored a game-high 16 points, later gave the Flashes their only first-half lead. It was on a 3, too. Ohio’s halftime lead was still only 23-20.

“Some of them were good shots. Most of them we could have taken our time to go inside and out or draw to the hole,” said Haynes, who scored 11 points. “If we saw it open, we took it. We probably took too many.”

What Kent State could salvage in the first half was because of turnovers. Ohio committed nine of them and finished with 16.

Christian said playing tentatively on offense and not shooting with confidence has been his team’s downfall all season. The Flashes attempted sixty-three shots last night. Twenty-one shots were made with 10 turnovers committed.

Ohio coach Tim O’Shea said Kent State’s offensive problems revolve away from the M.A.C. Center.

“If you look at Kent, particularly away from their home gym, they’re not a good shooting team,” O’Shea said. “They don’t have anyone like (Eric) Haut or (Trevor) Huffman.”

Ohio will play top-seeded Miami in the semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. The RedHawks (19-9) defeated Bowling Green, 85-65, behind Danny Horace’s 28 points and Chet Mason’s 21. Buffalo will play Western Michigan in the other semifinal game.

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