Basketball team uses new blood

Matt Goul

Jay Youngblood, national junior college player of the year, transfered to Kent State from Mott Community College in Michigan and has played well on this year’s team.

Credit: Andrew popik

Jay Youngblood’s second-half performance in Kent State’s overtime win Wednesday was a welcome back.

Youngblood, who was quiet for the previous six games, exploded for 15 of his 17 points in the second half. He scored no more than five points in any of the previous six. He was almost forgotten, but coach Jim Christian remembered he had last year’s national junior college player of the year.

Wednesday night’s win was a reminder for Youngblood, too.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “I got the best coach in the world, the best point guard, the best team. They all kept faith in me. The average coach would have took me out of the lineup, but coach stuck in there with me. My teammates kept my confidence up.”

Youngblood, a junior, transferred from Mott Community College in Detroit, where he was national player of the year last season. He started his career at Kent State with the same momentum he has when driving to the basket.

He was the team’s leading scorer six games into the season, including a 16-point performance against No. 25 Marquette in a 66-61 loss.

It may be more than a coincidence that Youngblood’s better games have coincided with Kent State’s success. He had 12 points in a 67-65 loss at undefeated Boston College, ranked ninth in the nation. After that game, which was lost on a buzzer-beater by Craig Smith, Youngblood’s presence quieted. So did Kent State’s play as a whole.

The Flashes (12-6, 4-3 Mid-American Conference) were 3-3 in the following games. Not until playing Buffalo did Youngblood return to his acrobatic grace with the basketball. The soaring, mid-air adjusting, crowd-jarring playmaking was back.

“He works very hard,” Christian said. “He’s always in the gym. He’s always watching tape. He’s always getting extra stuff done. He just hasn’t had results. Now that he has results, his hard work was rewarded and hopefully he can build on it.”

Christian called Wednesday’s win progress for rallying from a 10-point deficit and overcoming struggles from the free-throw line. He can also consider back-to-back wins after two straight losses — two of the worst in Christian’s tenure — progress. The chance for three straight wins comes with Marshall (3-12, 0-6 MAC) 7 p.m. tomorrow night at the M.A.C. Center. Christian said he is confident a run of wins is on the horizon.

“I told the team, in order for that to happen different guys have to step up,” he said. “You have to get production from guys that haven’t been giving you production.”

Freshman point guard Marcus Crenshaw was one in the Buffalo win. So was starting point guard DeAndre Haynes, who was struggling.

Six players scored in double figures Wednesday, the most in one game all season, giving the Flashes diverse scoring on a team without one go-to player.

Crenshaw, whose 11 points were just shy of his career high of 13, had his best performance of the season. Eight of his points came in the second half. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and all three of his second-half baskets changed momentum in a game where the Flashes were struggling to find it. Crenshaw said he didn’t look at this game as a pressure situation, but another big game to play in.

After Marshall, the Flashes will have a week before playing at Toledo (7-7, 3-2 MAC) in a televised game on Fox Sports Net Ohio.

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