For the second straight season Kent State and Morehead State played a competitive, spirited college basketball game. For the second straight season the Golden Flashes defeated the Eagles. This season, Kent State came from behind in the second half to beat the defending Ohio Valley Conference tournament champions 63-57 to improve to 5-2 on the season in Morehead, Kentucky.
Senior forward Anthony Simpson scored a career high 17 points and also added eight rebounds.
After MSU's Steve Peterson hit a layup with 14 minutes left in the second half, Morehead State had a 42-33 lead.
Senior guard Mike McKee hit three huge three pointers in the second half to lead Kent State's comeback. "Coach Ford told me to shoot the ball with confidence, and that's what I did in the second half," McKee said.
After senior forward Frank Henry-Ala had a big offensive rebound and put back, the Flashes led 56-55 at the four minute mark, and wouldn't trail the rest of the game. Sophomore big man Justin Greene had a big 'and one' with under a minute to go against MSU's Kenneth Faried to extend the lead to 61-55.
Kent State held Morehead State without points from the 5:18 mark in the second half until there was only 33 seconds left in the game. The Flashes did it out of their 2-3 zone, consisting of Sherman and Evans/McKee out top, with Greene, Simpson and Henry-Ala down low. The Flashes were very active in the zone, getting their hands on a lot of balls, forcing 16 turnovers and coming up with eight steals. The Kent State defense held Morehead State to 36 percent shooting.
"We got two big steals where Rod Sherman got his hands on the ball both times,” said head coach Geno Ford. “Rod got one of them, then two possessions later Mike McKee got the other. Those were the two biggest plays of the game.”
The first half saw the teams battle to a 30-30 tie. Sherman had nine points and seven rebounds to lead the Flashes. Kent State turned the ball over nine times in the first half, but only finished with 13 giveaways in the game. Morehead State came into the game forcing their opponents to average 20 turnovers a game. Kent State shot 50 percent in the first half and held Morehead State to 31 percent but the game was tied due to KSU turnovers and free throws. MSU was 11-12 from the line in the first half and KSU was just 4-8. The Eagles did not attempt a free throw in the second half and the Flashes were 10-18.
Kent State continued to struggle at the free throw line in the game, going 14-26.
Sherman finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and three assists in 38 minutes for another stat stuffing performance for the Indianapolis native. McKee and Greene both finished with 10 points.
Faried led Morehead State with 12 points and 15 rebounds. Peterson had 15 points and Maze Stallworth finished with 12 points for the Eagles.
There were 11 ties and 10 lead changes in the game.
Kent State played without guards Chris Singletary and Randal Holt who are both out with meniscus injuries. Singletary is expected to be back when the Golden Flashes host Texas A&M - Corpus Christ on December 20 while Holt is out 2-4 weeks. Kent State will continue to learn more this week about the status of both player's injuries.
Kent State will next be in action on Friday, December 4 when the Golden Flashes travel to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Musketeers. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. and is supposed to air on Fox Sports Ohio but most likely won't in Northeast Ohio due to the Cavaliers hosting the Chicago Bulls on FS Ohio at 8:00 p.m.
NOTES: Simpson is the sixth different Kent State player to lead the team in scoring this season (seven games) ... Second career start for Frank Henry-Ala ... Sherman is the first KSU guard to have a double-double since Chris Singletary (vs UNC Greensboro, 12/18/08) ... Head Coach Geno Ford now has 75 wins in his coaching career ... Kent State has scored more points off turnovers than the opposition in all seven games this season.
SIMPSON, THE X-FACTOR - Anthony Simpson had another good game coming off the bench as Kent State's "sixth man." Simpson had a career high 17 points on Sunday evening to go with eight rebounds. The Auburn, Illinois native had a key steal at the 4:25 mark when Morehead State attempted to throw a lob to Faried, in the midst of Kent State's defensive stand. "Anthony for us, as everyone that follows our team knows, he's the X-factor," Head Coach Geno Ford said. "When Anthony plays well we can be pretty good. When Anthony struggles we're not just because he gives us a dynamic athlete, a big guy who can shoot perimeter jumpers and he can post up." Since asking to come off the bench before the Youngstown State game, Simpson is averaging 11.8 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game in 28 minutes a night.
FLASHES SWITCH IT UP ON 'D'- The season is still early, but one of the main themes that is emerging for the Golden Flashes is their ability to switch up defenses, and be effective at them. “We have guys committed to communicating on defense, and that allows us to switch defenses on the fly,” said McKee. “Switching defense is becoming a big part of what we do.” Kent State has their man-to-man defense, 2-3 zone, a 1-3-1 zone and a trapping defense over half court after the first pass is made. The 2-3 zone was very effective on Sunday night. With bigs like Brandon Park and Justin Greene, who are a little more stationary athletes, the zone can work. Last season against Morehead State the switch to a 2-3 zone in the second half helped ignite a thrilling victory. “We tried to give them some different looks in zone, because when we played them man-to-man Faried would score,” said Ford.
SWITCH IT UP, PART II - Without guards Chris Singletary and Randal Holt unable to play due to injury, and the only three guards that KSU feels comfortable playing are Sherman, Evans and McKee, Ford decided to switch up his starting lineup. Frank Henry-Ala started at the small forward position and McKee came off the bench. It was the second career start for Henry-Ala. The Pasadena, California native is getting the reputation as a gritty offensive rebounder, and solid defender for the Golden Flashes.
FARIED IS FOR REAL - Kent State may not play a more athletic, energetic basket presence all season than Morehead State's 6-8 Kenneth Faried. Faried came into the game averaging 21.6 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game. Against KSU on Sunday he had 12 points and 15 rebounds. In last season's BracketBuster game against Kent State, Faried had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Geno Ford will not be sad to see Faried graduate. "We won't be renewing the contract, I've seen enough of him," Ford joked. "And as soon as he graduates, we'll play again." For those of you who haven't seen Faried play, think former KSU star Haminn Quaintance, but better.
Kent State defeated Rhode Island 64-46 in their home opener at the M.A.C. Center on Sunday afternoon. The Golden Flashes improved to 4-1 on the season with the comfortable victory.
Yoshica Spears led the Flashes with 14 points while Jena Stutzman had 12 and Chenel Harris chipped in with 10.
It was a record-tying day for Kent State Coach Bob Lindsay. The victory placed him in a deadlock with former Toledo coach Bob Nichols for most coaching wins in Mid-American Conference basketball history with 376.
Megan Shoniker and Ashley Rivera paced the Rams (2-4) with 13 points apiece.
Lindsay will look to take sole possession of first place when KSU hosts Cleveland State on Saturday at 2 p.m. to continue the five-game home stand.