KENT, Ohio - Friday night at the M.A.C. Center, Kent State and rival Akron played two very different halves of basketball as Michael Porrini had eight first-half points and 9 from Carlton Guyton for Kent State as the Golden Flashes took a 27-18 lead into halftime. An extended second-half slump that saw Kent State shoot just 1-12 in the half's first eight minutes allowed a 22-2 Akron run; and KSU was unable to recover as they fell to their interstate nemesis 61-55.
The Golden Flashes shot 50-percent from the field in the first half of the game while the Zips were held to 28-percent shooting but strangely enough neither team could find and success from distance with the two teams combining for 0-11 from three-point range (KSU 0-4, Akron 0-7). The shooting percentages from the field were essentially flip-flopped in the second half however with Kent State shooting 28-percent and Akron going off for 52-percent in a half where it held a plus-15 margin.
The second half was an exhibition in inefficiency as Kent State scraped together only five points in the first ten minutes, while turning the ball over six times in the same stretch. Justin Greene, the 2011 MAC Player of the Year was unable to get his game unhitched, and was scoreless until he connected on a free throw with 11:15 remaining, cutting Kent State's deficit to 10 points.
The make at the charity stripe got Greene got going a bit, but finished with just eight points on 2-10 shooting, but added a season-high 13 rebounds; but it was too little too late for the Flashes. They didn't get closer than five points behind the Zips the rest of the way.
Akron was led in victory by Chauncey Gilliam and Zeke Marshall, as each finished with 12 points. Marshall's defensive presence and his ability to handle Greene that might have had the most impact on the final score, and Greene was not shy about expressing his disappointment in his effort.
"I'll take 110-percent blame for this. If I played any type of way I know how to play tonight, we would have definitely won this game." Green said post-game. "I struggled, so I think everyone else was seeing that and it was kind of messing them up. When we win, I get the praise, when we lose, it's my fault and it definitely is my fault tonight."
He acknowledged though, that this loss, while hurtful, doesn't mean the end for Kent State's season, and by proxy, his college career.
"I'm not going sit here and dwell on it (the loss), and my teammates aren't going to sit here and dwell on it." Greene continued, "The last two years we had a regular season championship and it got us nowhere, so we just have to regroup and refocus."
Another glaring issue for Kent State in Friday night's game is its issues from the free throw line. Kent State would connect on its first three free throws and then go 6-13 the rest of the way. In a game that came down to two possessions the failure from the line made any comeback attempt seem impossible.
The first step on the road to refocusing is preparing for their quarterfinal action next Thursday in the MAC Tournament, and coach Rob Senderoff knows his team must approach the tournament with a focus on playing 40 hard minutes on defense.
"We are going to have to play very well, very determined and very focused. We can't allow our offensive to dictate our defense. We're going to have to play as hard as we can for three straight games." Senderoff said. "We will be one of six teams who have a chance to win it all when we begin play on Thursday and I have all the confidence in the world in our team."
With the loss, Kent State (20-10, 10-6 MAC) locked in its place as the fourth-seed in next week's MAC Tournament in Cleveland, but its bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament was not affected by the defeat.
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