Flashes inbound to win

Matt Goul

Kent State takes sole possession of second place

Kent State junior Kevin Warzynski falls down during the first half of Kent State’s 57-54 win over Akron last night, giving the Flashes sole control of second place in the MAC East Division.

Credit: Andrew popik

AKRON — With one shot separating Kent State from Akron last night, an inbounds pass became the most important fundamental.

Scott Cutley was faced with that task.

Akron trailed by three points with about 10 seconds left. Rick McFadden picked off Cutley’s pass to junior center Kevin Warzynski under the basket to make the deficit a point. Keeping possession and picking up a foul was all Kent State needed to do. Cutley, this time inbounding it, went for the jugular.

He found senior guard Jason Edwin, breaking away from the crowd of Akron defenders and to the basket. Edwin’s finish — a slam dunk — sealed Kent State’s 57-54 win over the Zips (13-7, 7-5 Mid-American Conference).

“I think they were stressing on DeAndre (Haynes) and Armon (Gates),” said Edwin, who scored a team-high 18 points.

He thought he’d be open by sprinting toward the basket anyway.

“One of the plays, they were playing everybody in the halfcourt,” Edwin said, “so I figured I’d go long.”

His thought process gave the Flashes (16-7, 8-4 MAC) sole possession of second place. They remain two games behind Miami, who beat Ball State last night.

Edwin scored all three of Kent State’s final baskets, the last two pushing its lead to three.

“They were huge,” Kent State coach Jim Christian said. “It’s hard because they were at the other end. I kept trying to tell them, he was open on three other times. But my voice is lost.”

Edwin coasted around defenders with about 51 seconds left to drain a fadeaway jump shot. He then came up with a dunk on a 2-on-1 break after the Zips pulled within one on a McFadden 3. After Mario Collins lost possession of the ball as it fell out of bounds, the stage was set for the inbounds drill.

Having won six of its last seven games, Christian said he is noticing his team’s improved play. The win was also the Flashes’ second straight on the road, after they failed to win one in conference since late last season. They now own more overall wins than any other MAC team. But while sitting behind Miami in the East and tied for third in the conference, the need to win is setting in.

The time to peak is now.

“Even though it’s the middle of February, it’s time to step up,” Haynes said. “We talk about it every day in practice.”

The Flashes led for the entire second half and did not trail since about eight minutes were left in the first half.

Both teams battled back-and-forth in the first half. Turnovers, baskets and physical play were traded, and neither Kent State nor Akron could pull ahead by more than three until Marcus Crenshaw’s 3-pointer started a 10-4 run to close the half.

Kent State took a 32-25 lead into halftime after Jason Edwin put back his own shot underneath the basket, beating an expiring shot clock.

Edwin’s putback followed Nate Gerwig’s putback a possession earlier. Gerwig pulled down eight rebounds in 10 minutes. He finished with 10 rebounds and six points in 21 minutes, getting into the heads of his opponents as the physical play increased.

Gerwig’s physicality helped the Flashes to a rebounding advantage of eight in the first half. Eleven of its 26 boards came on the offensive end.

The Zips’ Romeo Travis kept the Flashes’ second-half advantage from growing. Travis muscled his way to a game-high 20 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds as the Zips fought back from a 10-point deficit with about 14:30 left to play.

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