By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal staff writer
KENT: It was Kent State's defense. And its dominating presence in the post. And the boisterous crowd, whose yelling and clapping and stomping shook the stands.
It was all of this and more as the first meeting this season between Kent State and the University of Akron lived up to its billing Saturday in front of a sellout crowd of 6,204 at the M.A.C. Center.
Kent State's 87-70 victory was UA's worst loss of the season. The Golden Flashes manhandled their second consecutive opponent this week, following Wednesday's 35-point win over visiting Buffalo.
Playing with an aggressive defense against the Zips (13-6, 3-2 Mid-American Conference), the Flashes (12-7, 3-2) scored 44 points inside and generated 23 second-chance points.
''We really pressured the ball effectively,'' Kent State coach Geno Ford said. ''We really scrambled the guys and really tried to pressure the ball hard and make them put it on the deck and be a driving team as opposed to a jump-shot team.''
The Flashes were just as effective offensively. KSU shot 52 percent for the game, 66 percent in the second half, and five players scored in double figures.
UA 7-foot freshman center Zeke Marshall used his long arms mostly to defend, blocking three shots but scoring just four points. Kent State's Justin Greene was much more effective inside, producing game highs in points (23) and rebounds (a career-high 13).
''[Marshall] blocked a couple of my shots, but I didn't lose any confidence,'' Greene said. ''I just kept attacking him.''
Greene was good in the first half, but he was even better in the second when teammate Chris Singletary became more of a factor.
In the first half, Singletary, KSU's senior leader, and Jimmy Conyers, one of UA's best players, were nonfactors. Guarding each other, Conyers had one point and Singletary none, and each picked up two fouls.
''I didn't show my emotion enough in the first half,'' said Singletary, who finished with 10 points and seven assists. ''I was too afraid to get too hyped up and I didn't allow myself to be what I needed to be energy-wise. [In the] second half, I just let loose and played with energy and emotion.''
Singletary's mood change lifted his teammates, as well. Greene exerted himself on the offensive end as Kent State went on a 22-4 run to open the second half, including a 19-0 run in which Greene scored 11 points.
''What got Justin going as much as anything was Chris getting going in the midpost and being able to get a couple dump-downs,'' Ford said. ''Chris is a tough matchup in the midpost. The guy can score and he's an exceptional passer. He's got a poise about him that you cannot teach.''
During the 19-0 run, the Zips went 7:26 between baskets, falling behind by 20 points with 10:22 to go.
The Zips made a final run and whittled the deficit to 10 points with 4:27 to go, but it was as close as they would get.
''We came into the game focused on defense,'' said KSU junior guard Rodriquez Sherman, who contributed 13 points, three assists and two steals. ''We know they have great shooters. We had to make sure we had pressure on them at all times. We wanted to make them drive, and we made them drive. We wanted to be out there on the shooters, keep the pressure up and just make them make a tough decision on offense.''
The game was physical from the tip-off, and the Zips were quickly in foul trouble. Forwards Brett McKnight and Conyers both had two fouls in the first four minutes, including a technical on Conyers for shoving a shoulder into Singletary.
With the Zips at a disadvantage, the Flashes took a 12-7 lead. But UA got right back in the game with a 7-0 run.
The Flashes regrouped and went on a 6-0 run of their own, holding a 21-15 lead with just less than nine minutes to go in the first half.
With his regulars in foul trouble, UA coach Keith Dambrot went to his bench and found a hot shooter in Brett McClanahan. The sophomore guard contributed three quick jumpers, including a 3-pointer, in a 14-1 run that put the Zips back ahead by seven.
But the Flashes outscored the Zips 13-6 in the final four minutes, including six points from Greene, and it was 35-35 at halftime.
Another Big Second Half Powers Kent State Past Rival Akron 87-70 - KentStateSports.com
Flashes button up the Zips - Kent Sports Report
Golden Flashes men soar past rival Akron, 87-70 - Record Courier
Kent State defeats Akron with ease, 87-70 - Cleveland Plain Dealer
Fueled by some tough love, Kent State is once again pushing toward the top of the MAC - Cleveland Plain Dealer
Flashes explode after intermission to down Zips - MAC Report Online
Flash fans come out for Akron - KentWired.com
Men's Basketball Falls at Kent State, 87-70 - GoZips.com
Flashes make it all quiet on the Zips' front - Akron Beacon Journal