Haynes overcomes benching in victory

Matt Goul

MT. PLEASANT, Mich.— Junior point guard DeAndre Haynes sat on the bench for the first five minutes of Kent State’s 79-56 win at Central Michigan last night.

He’s had all the time he’s needed to reflect on his recent struggles. He responded by leading Kent State (17-10, 9-6 Mid-American Conference) to its most lopsided win of the season.

It just wasn’t so lopsided while losing 24-20.

That was the score before Haynes scored his first points. Once he did, Central Michigan (9-16, 3-13) was outscored by 27 points for the rest of the game. Haynes finished with 16 points.

“I wasn’t trying to listen to coach get in my head as much,” said Haynes, who also helped his team pick up a game on East-Division leader Miami after its loss to Akron in overtime. “People have been saying we’ve been going through a lot of adversity, but we really aren’t if you look at it.

“I went out there and just played, and didn’t worry about anything,” he said. “I just had fun.”

Haynes scored on four straight possessions in retaking the lead before halftime. It was the Haynes of old.

He got to the free-throw line and converted. He knocked down a baseline jumper. He putback a missed shot and found his old trademark — driving to the basket creating a layup for himself.

Creating has not been a problem for Haynes. Finishing was.

“He just had an aggressive mindset and was able to penetrate with the basketball,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “That’s when he’s at his best.”

Christian had made a habit of sitting his captain and point guard during the recent slump. That did not happen last night. At least for the last 35 minutes of the game.

Freshman Marcus Crenshaw started at the point instead. Christian said earlier in the season he does not care who starts a game, but keeping Haynes on the bench did not hurt.

Crenshaw made his start efficient.

He calmly drained the first two 3-point attempts he got, giving the Flashes an early five-point lead. After taking a 9-4 lead, the rest of the first half was a back-and-forth struggle. Neither team could pull ahead by more than three points until Central Michigan’s Sefton Barrett rose up off a lead pass for a slam.

That was when Haynes awoke.

Even after he scored eight straight points, sophomore forward Scott Cutley was there to putback his miss that would have been 10 straight points.

The Flashes made establishing a lead seem easy after the Flashes’ early difficulties. The struggle to build momentum on the road against the last-place team in the MAC West is not new. Kent State had similar problems at Rose Arena last year when it was down by one at halftime before winning by 15.

“It’s just lack of focus,” said Cutley, who scored a game-high 19 points. “We come out kind of nonchalant a little bit. In that way, we let teams get in it. That hurts us a lot. Coach has to call a timeout and get us refocused.”

Like last year, the focus was there after the slow start.

The Flashes opened the second half by scoring the first three baskets, stretching a 16-4 run that started when Haynes came on. Before Central Michigan could regroup, Kent State was up by 10 when junior guard Jay Youngblood spun past defenders on the baseline for a layup that could not have come any easier.

His team started the second half by making 10 of its first 12 shots.

And Haynes had a hand in it. His shots were falling now.

He said starting on the bench allowed him to see the flow of the game before entering. He’s done it a couple times this season. Both times, in wins over IP-Fort Wayne and Marshall, it worked.

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