KENT - Kent State found a way to win on its home floor and in the process won its first post season game since the 2002 NCAA Tournament run to the 'Elite Eight'.
Rod Sherman hit a left handed runner in the lane with 19 seconds left and the Flashes got one last defensive stop to force a tough Ben Uzoh jumper that rimmed out to give Kent State the win.
With the win the Flashes advance in the National Invitation Tournament and will play at Illinois on Monday at 8:00 p.m. for a nationally televised audience on ESPNU.
Chris Singletary led six KSU players in double figures with 16 points. The senior from Chicago also chipped in with seven assists and six rebounds. Anthony Simpson had 13 points and eight rebounds, Randal Holt had 11 points and Justin Greene had 10.
But it was Tyree Evans' points that gave the Flashes the lift they needed in the second half. Evans went on an 8-0 run of his own in a one minute and 18 second span to give the Kent State a 62-58 lead. The first of his two three pointers bounced all around the rim before falling through, and it seemed to loosen up KSU.
“Tyree was great,” KSU coach Geno Ford said. “He got us going. We were in trouble when he got hot. The first three he made when it touched every part of the rim before it went in, he kind of smiled and relaxed, and I think it got everyone on our team going. Then he rattled off two more in a row. The kids did a good job looking for him.”
After the Evans mini run, Tulsa tied the game to set up seven lead changes over the five and a half minutes of the second half before Sherman's heroics.
The first half saw Kent State shoot 33-percent including 1/10 on three pointers to allow Tulsa to take a 35-28 halftime lead.
The Golden Hurricane, from Conference USA, were led by NBA prospect big man Jerome Jordan. Jordan looked good on Wednesday, leading Tulsa with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Justin Hurtt had 22 points while Uzoh chipped in with 14.
Ford was feeling fortunate and pleased by beating a talented, athletic Tulsa team. He also had nothing but praise for his players.
“I love these kids,” he said. “They are so tough, and they bounce back from adversity. They handle adversity better than success. Even though we won the league and won 24 games, we went out and had our worst game of the year in the conference tournament at both ends of the floor. We found a way to beat a team I have a lot of respect for.”
“That was a very good college basketball game,” Tulsa fifth year coach Doug Wojcik said. “Give Kent State a lot of credit for having strong will at the end of the game to win the game. “Our defense just wasn’t good enough to win the game. We didn’t get enough stops.”
KSU WINS IN THE POST SEASON - Kent State was able to pick up their first post season victory since the 2002 run to the 'Elite Eight' on Wednesday night. “It’s been a long time,” said Ford. “It’s been eight years, and in that time we’ve now been to seven postseasons, won 20 games seven times, won our league three or four times. And this is our first postseason victory since the Elite Eight year. These games are hard to win.”
FLASHES ARE LOCKED IN - Kent State came out and played hard and inspired, just like you thought a Kent State team would after its disappointing MAC quarterfinal loss to Ohio. "I had people all week talking about if the guys would be focused or ready,” Ford said. “Was I concerned about that? Yes. That’s not good enough against these kind of teams. You not only have to be focused, but you have to play really well. That second half might be the best we’ve had all year, and we won by one at the buzzer.” Singletary was excited to suit up at least one more time at the M.A.C. Center. “I think having another chance to put on a Kent State jersey really helped," he said. "We always want to defend our home court. To be able to put on this shirt again and come out and play in front of our fans really helped us out.”
HEADING HOME - With Kent State playing at Illinois on Monday night, Singletary will have a chance to go back to his home state and play in front of a lot of friends and family. Anthony Simpson is from Rockford, Illinois. Ian Pinckney also calls Illinois his home state along with assistant coach Armon Gates. Kent State played Illinois last season at the South Padre Island Invitational and lost a tough game 69-63 in overtime on November 28, 2008. The Flashes are 0-4 all time against Illinois.
HIGH PRAISE FOR THE GOLDEN HURRICANE - Tulsa is an impressive looking team with a trio of Uzoh, Justin Hurtt and Jordan that can rival anyone in the country. The trio combined for 59 points on Wednesday night. Ford had high praise for Tulsa, a program that has won 20 or more games for four consecutive seasons. "They're just as good as a Pittsburgh or a Xavier or a South Florida, you know teams that we couldn't beat earlier in the year...and we played a great game. That was fun. Our kids had a lot of fun."
Kent State Advances In The NIT With 75-74 Win Over Tulsa - KentStateSports.com
Tulsa Falls at Kent State 75-74 in NIT Opener - TulsaHurricane.com