Sweet Sweep

Matt Goul

Four-way tie for second sets in after win vs. Akron

Guard Jason Edwin leaps over Akron players on his way to the basket and 21 points during Saturday’s game.

Credit: Matt Goul

There was no love for Romeo, or anyone else, that could have kept Kent State from beating Akron Saturday.

Sophomore forward Romeo Travis led Akron’s comeback from a seven-point halftime deficit. He gave the Zips their first lead of the second half on a dunk but could not keep them in second place by themselves. They share it with three others, including Kent State (18-10, 10-6 Mid-American Conference), after the Flashes’ 73-68 win Saturday night at the M.A.C Center. All four trail Miami by one game after its loss to Bowling Green yesterday.

That left no room Saturday night for buckling under pressure, either.

Senior guard Jason Edwin did not.

His 3-pointer with 56.9 seconds left gave the Flashes a 69-68 lead and the last basket they needed. He did not hesitate. His shot, near the top of the key, came with 24 seconds left on the shot clock. Still no worries. The only senior on Kent State’s roster knew what he was doing.

“We play the same zone defense,” Edwin said. “I knew the different cracks in the zone, so it was familiar to me. We knew the open areas, and when the opportunity arises, you got to take the shot.”

Edwin scored a game-high 21 points. He led his team in scoring when it beat the Zips (17-8, 10-6 MAC) less than three weeks ago. Edwin was clutch then, too, scoring the Flashes’ last four points in a three-point win.

He’s brought the leadership and dependability Kent State coach Jim Christian became accustomed to after his first two seasons. It’s come to a point where Edwin, who was sporadic in play last season, is the team’s steady shooter as a senior.

“That was probably as big a shot as he’s ever hit,” Christian said. “He just hit a big-time shot. He’s done that all year for us. If a big shot’s been made for our team, he’s hit the majority of them.”

As soon as Edwin’s shot fell, Christian was kneeling down and smacking the hardwood for defense. He got it.

Senior forward Rick McFadden took Akron’s next two shots, both 3s that did not fall. Both times, he was guarded by Jay Youngblood.

The first looped around the rim and out, finding its way into the hands of sophomore forward Scott Cutley. The second missed completely with junior forward Kevin Warzynski coming up with the rebound. Youngblood’s strategy in defending McFadden was simple.

“Make sure he doesn’t get a good shot off and contain it,” he said.

Youngblood saw a paper of McFadden hitting a 3 against Miami. It was not just the 3, but McFadden sticking his tongue out after hitting the 3 that Youngblood said got to him the most.

“I didn’t want that to happen to me,” he said, “him having his tongue out to beat us.”

Akron’s next 3 – the third and most desperate – was an air ball after it left the fingertips of Dru Joyce from the right corner and into the hands of Edwin.

All three times Akron missed, the M.A.C. Center crowd – those supporting the Flashes — went into a frenzy. The M.A.C. Center’s listed capacity is 6,327, but 6,502 were in attendance Saturday night. It was the largest crowd since the arena was renovated in 1992.

“The lift we got from the crowd was huge,” Christian said. “It was a tremendous atmosphere. I think the kids fed off it all game.”

Youngblood fed off it as he scored while drawing a foul with two minutes left. The Flashes trailed by four before his move to the basket. They closed the game by scoring the last nine points, starting with Youngblood’s play.

Akron had built momentum behind Travis, who scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half.

“I thought they did a better job on Romeo this game,” Akron coach Keith Dambrot said. “He didn’t make as good of decisions as he normally does, but he’s carried us.”

Dambrot added Akron’s rebounding troubles allowed the Kent State takeover. The Flashes grabbed 17 more rebounds. Leading rebounder Jeremiah Wood is out for the season for the Zips.

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