Tuesday night's match up between Toledo and Kent State featured two of the Mid-American Conference's top defensive teams. The game lived up to its billing as the Golden Flashes pulled out a 64-60 nail biter over the visiting Rockets in front of 3,274 at the MAC Center.
"In a game like that it's going to be whichever team refuses to lose at that particular stretch," Kent State head coach Jim Christian said about the game's final moments. "We got a lot of energy from the crowd and it was just two good basketball teams playing hard at the end of the game and we were lucky to make some plays and guys got the big stop that they had to get to win the game."
Kent State freshman Chris Singletary scored four of his 14 points in the final 33 seconds as the Golden Flashes notched their sixth straight victory and seventh straight at home.
"It's a confidence thing with me," Singletary said. "I'm very confident now being that I have my teammates behind me and they trust me. I'm just ready to step up and that's what I did today."
Singletary and classmate Rodriquez Sherman both made clutch plays down the stretch to seal the victory. Sherman scored a key assist on a lay-up by Singletary as the shot clock expired to give the Golden Flashes a 58-55 lead with just 1:58 left to play.
"I heard (Omni Smith) calling me on the left side but coach always says to take one extra dribble to see if something opens up," Sherman said. "I saw Chris and passed it. Actually, it felt better than scoring when he got it and scored and got the and-one."
Singletary missed the bonus free throw but he'd make up for it moments later. With the score tied at 60, he converted a lay-up to give the Golden Flashes a two-point lead with just over thirty seconds remaining. Toledo's Justin Ingram missed a jumper and Florentino Valencia missed the follow-up but Tyrone Kent pulled down the rebound for Toledo but he lost the ball out of bounds.
Keonta Howell fouled Singletary on the in-bounds pass and the freshman nailed two clutch free throws to make it a two-possession game with just three seconds on the clock.
"Coach is always talking about being mentally tough and focusing in the last two or three minutes of the game and just digging in and giving it all you got and that's what I tried to do tonight," Singletary said. "I haven't been shooting (free throws) that well in the beginning of the season but coach has been having us shoot free throws every day after practice and it's been helping a lot. When I went to the free throw line with the last two shots I was real confident and I stepped up and knocked them down."
The Rockets (12-10 overall, 8-2 in the MAC) entered the contest leading the MAC in forced turnovers but it was Kent State (15-8, 8-2) that dominated that category. The Golden Flashes forced 15 Toledo turnovers and committed just nine, the second fewest by Kent State this season.
"We played a team that's averaging 11 steals per game in MAC play and I think they only had six points off turnovers," Christian said. "We only had nine turnovers total and that's huge. To keep them out of transition was the biggest key of the game; taking care of the basketball was the biggest key of the game. Only having nine turnovers in a game like that was big for our team."
Julian Sullinger led all Kent State scorers with 17 points, a new career-high. Omni Smith added 13 points and Mike Scott pitched in with 10 rebounds. Haminn Quaintance matched a season-high with four blocked shots and Singletary grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
Kent State travels to Western Michigan on Sunday.