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March 9, 2012Thursday night in Cleveland, Kent State started their run towards a hopeful NCAA tournament berth with a 76-72 victory over Western Michigan in MAC quarterfinal action at the "Q".
Led by first-team All-Conference forward Justin Greene's 23-points and nine rebounds, the Flashes never trailed and withstood a feverish late run by the Broncos to set up a Friday night rematch with the top-seeded Akron Zips. It will be the third time this season that the two rivals meet; with Kent State falling to the Zips in each of the two prior meetings, including the regular-season finale last Friday night in Kent.
Thursday was not without its issues for Kent State, despite emerging victorious. The Flashes shot only 60-percent (15-25) from the charity stripe and hit just 3-13 from beyond the arc, but found a way to keep the Broncos at bay, largely in part to forcing 13 Western Michigan turnovers. A night of missed opportunities at the charity stripe played a key role in last week's loss to Akron, and it's becoming clear that the issues might continue to be a factor moving forward. For the most part, though, coach Rob Senderoff's team took care of business on a night when looking ahead to a third try at the Zips was a real concern.
Fortunately for Kent State fans, one player that had his mind on the task at hand was the aforementioned Greene, last year's MAC Player of the Year. He was aggressive from the get-go, and consciously so; realizing that as he goes so goes his team.
"It was a focus in mind. Coach always told me since I was a youngster is that good players, don't have back-to-back bad games." Green said postgame, "I wanted to come in and make an emphasis early."
Greene did just that, scoring 10 of his game-high 23 in the game's first 12 minutes, and that was enough to get the Golden Flashes rolling. Randal Holt contributed 13 points for KSU, as did junior Chris Evans, who was key off the bench for Senderoff's squad.
Now the attention turns to Akron, and it's a meeting that no doubt has been in the minds of the staff and players since last Friday night's game-clock went to all zeros.
"It's going to be a good one." Senior guard Michael Porrini said "I know our boys and coaches are going to have us ready. We are going to try to come out with a win and get into the championship on Saturday."
Kent State fans, coaches and players alike are all hoping that the third time is indeed a charm.
Kent State NEWS