The degree of difficulty was off the charts tough.
But somehow just as the five-minute overtime buzzer sounded, Kent State senior guard/forward Chris Evans banked in the game winner to hand the host Flashes an 83-81 victory over the Bulls Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.
About 10 minutes earlier, senior guard Randal Holt lost the handle on the ball and fumbled it away at the end of regulation with the score tied 73-all and trying to run clock, KSU’s dominating 15-0 home streak over the Bulls in serious jeopardy.
But Buffalo’s final shot with four seconds to go was off the mark, giving each team another five minutes with which to work.
Just when a stalemate appeared eminent once again to force a second overtime, Evans grabbed a rebound on the right side of the rim and then banked in the game winner from about five feet out with three Bulls in his face hounding him.
The improbable shot went though the net just as the final buzzer sounded, sending Evans and his stunned teammates into a frenzied mob that quickly traveled from one end of the court to the other in giddy celebration.
Late turnover aside, Holt carried the Flashes (16-12, 6-7 in Mid-American Conference) throughout the action while Evans struggled with his shot in the first half, finishing with a pedestrian 14 points by his usual standards. Aggressive from the start, Holt made six 3-pointers as part of a career-high 28 points - leading four Flashes in double-figure scoring.
But what really made the win special was the fact that it wasn’t just the two senior leaders picking up each other.
Junior forward Darren Goodson hit one clutch shot after another – including three 3’s – as part of his 18-point contribution and little-used center Melvin Tabb came off the bench for an undeniable second-half spark of 12 points and five rebounds in just 14 minutes of play.
Buffalo junior forward and MAC Player of the Year candidate Javon McCrea led all players with 32 points and finished with a near triple-double with 15 points and eight blocks.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound McCrea dominated from the start and appeared as if he might single-handedly overpower the Flashes by dominating the post. But KSU wisely switched from man-to-man defense to a more effective 2-3 zone in the second half that helped limit McCrea’s easy touches.
The switch to zone also resulted in KSU winning the rebound battle 46-38, despite trailing at the half by six rebounds and a score of 41-32.