By Jonas Fortune
Beacon Journal sports writer
It may not look like the same Kent State basketball team when players take the floor again Wednesday.
Coach Geno Ford has seen enough of the poor defense and missed layups that led to a 76-70 loss to Bowling Green on Sunday at the M.A.C. Center.
''We are looking at some lineup changes. We aren't going to start the same five guys. We might not start any of them,'' Ford said. ''Tuesday we will practice hard, and we will see which five guys will guard the best on Tuesday and those guys will start.''
The fact that the Flashes hit just 11 of 33 layup attempts was just as damaging as poor defense.
All of it contributed to blowing a six-point lead with three minutes and 40 seconds remaining. After sophomore Justin Greene hit a layup to make the score 64-58, the Flashes hit just two of their final nine field-goal attempts.
The Falcons hit every one of theirs.
Bowling Green ended the game hitting all eight foul shot attempts, sophomore Dee Brown hit two 3-pointers and sophomore Scott Thomas added a layup.
''We have to get better at the defensive end. We were slow to rotate today to shooters and closing out with our hands down,'' Ford said. ''The frustration, to me, is it is simple stuff.''
The loss spoiled a return to form by senior Mike McKee, who entered the game shooting 2-of-12 from 3-point range over the last five games. On Sunday, McKee led the Golden Flashes with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range, both tying career highs.
''He was dangerous,'' Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. ''He shot the ball well.''
McKee breaking out of his funk may be a positive sign as the season progresses, but he was in no mood to think about it after the loss.
''Nothing feels good at all when you lose,'' he said.
Bowling Green (8-7, 1-2) was the perfect matchup for McKee and fellow 3-point shooter Tyree Evans. The Falcons played a 2-3 zone defense the entire game, which left plenty of room on the perimeter for Evans, who hit three 3-pointers, and McKee.
Kent State finished the game 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) from 3-point range, its second-best performance from behind the arc this season. The 11 3-pointers is a season high, but the Flashes shot 7-of-12 from 3 against Youngstown State on Nov. 18.
It was the closer shots that seemed to bother the Flashes on Sunday. They began the game by missing their first six shots, including three layups, as the Falcons built an 11-0 lead.
''I don't know if I have been more embarrassed and disappointed with a group of guys in terms of our collective effort to start a game,'' Ford said. ''To have a veteran team like we do and to come out and not be with it like that to start a league game is not acceptable and ultimately that is on me so we will try and get that corrected.''
Kent State rebounded to outscore Bowling Green 29-9 in the final 12 minutes of the first half and take a 35-26 lead into halftime.
The combination of Brown and Thomas was too much in the second half, though. Thomas scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the second half. Brown scored 15 of his 21 points.
Greene, Evans and senior Chris Singletary each scored 13 points for a Kent State team that shot 36.1 percent from the field overall and missed 22 layups.
''How you can shoot 11-33 in the lane is a little bit of a mystery,'' Ford said. ''We got to get this turned around because the hottest team in the league is rolling in here Wednesday.''
Kent State (10-7, 1-2) will play Buffalo (10-4, 3-0) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center before hosting rival Akron noon Saturday.
TOUGH LOSS - Toughness. That was the word of the day and the word you heard over and over in the post game press conferences from both Geno Ford and two of his seniors. With six seniors on its roster and in its top nine of the rotation, the Flashes' reputation around the league is that of a veteran, gritty, tough team that will find a way to win, even if it is winning ugly. But on Sunday afternoon Kent State didn't have the ability to close out a game it had to have at home with the two best teams in the MAC coming to town. Chris Singletary may have summed it up best after the game. “Coach told us there will be a lot of games where it comes down to the last minute or two, and the tougher team is going to win," he said. "These last two games, we haven’t been the tougher team to make that stop, to get that rebound, to get that loose ball, to knock down the open shot, to make the free throw.”
HIGHTOWER IN THE BUILDING - Veteran official Ed Hightower was the lead official on Sunday afternoon. Hightower primarily works Big Ten and Big East games. He has worked several Final Fours, including the 2008 Kansas-Memphis NCAA Championship game.
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