Fans gather at Water Street Tavern for March Madness watch party


Janson McNair

Kent State players embrace during a timeout at Kent State’s March Madness matchup against Indiana March 17.

Michael Neenan, Reporter

Kent State men’s basketball fans packed Water Street Tavern Friday, ready to watch their team play in the first round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.

The 13th-seeded Flashes were originally set to place the 4th-seeded Indiana Hoosiers in Albany, New York, at 9:55 p.m. But the game was delayed by about thirty minutes due to the Miami-Drake game running over.

High hopes to start

Before the game began, friends junior business major Jon Saxton and Logan Firby, a junior at Eastern Gateway Community College, attended the watch party and were both confident the Flashes would pull off the upset over Indiana.

“I bet money on them,” Saxton said. “They’re winning tonight.”

Saxton predicted Kent State would win the matchup 75-69. Firby said 68-60, KSU.

“We’re underdogs,” Firby said. “We’re gonna win this game for sure.”

When the game was about to begin, the crowd – many dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day – turned its attention to the screens as the game began. Chants erupted, with many yelling against Indiana.

As the game tipped-off at around 10:30 p.m., people across the tavern cheered.

Every Kent State fan answered a field-goal with a scream, and people cheered the loudest for redshirt senior Sincere Carry, who finished the game with 15 points.

He leads his team in overall scoring this season with 598 points – 170 points above redshirt senior guard Malique Jacobs, who has the second-highest total. Kent State entered halftime down 35-27.

At halftime, senior fashion design major Grayson McMaster was happy with the Flashes’ performance.

“In the end, it’s a pretty good team,” McMaster said. “We’re doing good, better than I thought we would tonight. And it said like 17 years since we got this far.”

McMaster also commented on the atmosphere at the tavern’s watch party.

“I love it at Water – the vibes are real,” McMaster said. “There’s so many TVs. It’s great.”

Reactions to the loss

The match ended in a 71-60 Indiana victory around 12:45 a.m. Many Kent State fans had already left with less than two minutes left in the game.

By 1:15 a.m., the tavern was nearly half empty.

Dan Friend, the Water Street Tavern’s general manager, said he was pleased with the party’s turnout.

“You couldn’t move, it was great,” Friend said. “Everyone was cheering at every single point, every single block, it didn’t matter. Everyone was in, everyone was having a great time.”

Friend called the loss “tough.”

“It was a tough loss for them,” Friend said. “I feel like they just weren’t hitting their shots that they needed to hit. It was just kind of rough for them. We were packed for the game. So I mean, I was excited about that.”

The men’s basketball team finished 28-7 overall, with a first-place Mid-American Conference victory and a 15-3 conference record. The Flashes ranked first in defense in the Mid-American Conference.

Friend said the team had “a phenomenal season.”

“Their defense has been amazing all year, carried them through, took them to the tournament,” Friend said. “It’s sad to see them lose. I was really looking forward to having more watch parties here and having everybody come in and support the team.”

Michael Neenan is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]