After a weak first half, the Flashes had their typical second half comeback to beat Miami (Ohio) 71-67 Wednesday night at the M.A.C. Center.
The Flashes began the game trying to attack the basket and score down low in the paint. The Redhawks' forwards, regarded as some of the best in the Mid-American Conference, made continual stops. After a stop, Miami ran a very fast-paced offense, swinging the ball to multiple players until finding an open man for a three-point shot.
The Flashes continued to play sloppy basketball until the last couple minutes of the first half. That's when junior guard Randal Holt's perimeter shot was finally utilized. Holt shot 2 for 2 from three-point range which enabled him to give head fakes and catch his defender off guard as Holt spun to the basket for an easy two. By halftime, Holt and senior forward Justin Greene helped pull their team to a 37-33 point difference-a very small difference considering at three minute mark of the first half the Redhawks led by 12.
Greene's performance cannot be overlooked either. Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff emphasized the importance of shutting down arguably the best player in the MAC, Julian Mavunga. Mavunga came into Wednesday night's game averaging 19.7 points. Greene held the 6-foot, 8-inch forward to only 14 points last night.
"The last thing I wanted to do is let (Mavunga) come in and get a win on my home court," Greene said. "I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win."
Greene also had an outstanding game on the offensive side of the ball. Last year's MAC Player of the Year lead the team and set a new season high with 23 points and six rebounds. Greene had one of the biggest plays to give Kent State the lead. With seconds remaining, Carlton Guyton brought the ball down the floor. He looked to shoot, but then passed the ball to Greene. The big man came through the Flashes once again. He spun around and laid the ball up to give Kent State the 69-67 lead.
"I caught it, twisted my ankle and next thing I know, the crowd is going crazy," Greene said. "I don't even know how it went in. I don't know how I shot it. I'm just happy it went in."
At the following timeout, Greene, now with a weak ankle, was replaced by junior Patrick Jackson for defensive strength. Coming off the bench, Jackson made the most important stop of the night. The Redhawks brought the ball down and looked to give it to their big man, Mavunga. Miami threw a pass to lead Mavunga to the basket, but Jackson's defense prevented Mavunga from reaching it and caused a turnover.
"He fronted him," Green said. "He made it tough for him to catch it and it caused the guard to throw it out of bounds. It was huge, and that's what we needed him to do. (Jackson) does all the dirty work, and that's the type of guy that you need to win a championship."
Miami then fouled Holt, who hit both of his free throws to put Kent State ahead by four. The Flashes held on to this cushion for the 71-67 victory over Miami and improvement to 1-1 in the MAC. Knowing how tough the conference is, Senderoff was happy to not lose this game at home.
"Every win is important, especially every win at home," Senderoff said. "You can't lose home games in this league. It's too tough to win on the road to afford to lose home games. It was a huge win for us and our kids showed a tremendous amount of heart in finding a way to win."
Now the Flashes will host Bowling Green, who is coming of a 56-55 loss to Akron Wednesday. The Falcons enter with a 7-8 overall record and 1-1 conference record. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center.