Kent State’s offense went dry in the final four minutes of play Friday night against Akron and with it went the Golden Flashes NCAA Tournament hopes.
Perhaps the most telling statistic of the No. 4-seed Flashes offensive woes in their 62-59 loss to rival and No. 1-seed Akron in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals was that in 32 minutes, senior guard/forward Chris Evans had one field goal.
Granted, it was a memorable basket – a thunderous dunk with 6.5 seconds left in the first half right over Akron’s 7-foot center Zeke Marshall. Marshall also fouled Evans, who converted the free throw to complete the three-point play and pull the Flashes to within three points at halftime, 32-29.
But the only other points that Evans (the previous night’s game MVP with 25 points), scored the rest of the night came at the free throw line, where he went 4-for-5 to finish with six points. The Flashes shot just 35.7 from the field, yet were in the game right until the Zips’ Brian Walsh sealed the win at the free throw line with 6.7 seconds left.
Marshall and his seven blocks had a lot to do with limiting KSU and especially Evans on the night, keeping him from taking over late like he did in willing the Flashes to victory over Buffalo in the quarterfinals.
But with the Flashes clinging to a slight lead with 3:24 to go and an Evans’ lay up attempt out of a time out rimming in deep before popping out, it seemed to illustrate KSU’s frustrations.
“That summed up the night,” Evans said. “Getting good looks right at the basket and them not falling. Akron played great defense, it was a frustrating night for me.”
Kent State’s other senior leader – guard Randal Holt – did all he could in finishing with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. But it was the Cleveland native’s final two long-range attempts that may stick with him the longest – two misses with 15 and 11 seconds, respectively, left in the game.
“They were good looks,” Holt said. “I shot them with confidence, (but) they didn’t drop…we got some good looks (in the final minutes) from the top of the rim and some good looks from the perimeter. They just didn’t fall for us.”
If there’s a silver lining for the Flashes (20-13) following such a heart breaker, it’s the fact that mere minutes after the final buzzer, Kent State’s athletic administration had already accepted a spot in the CollegeInsider.com post season Tournament and will host a game at the M.A.C. Center Tuesday night.
“Those tournaments, there’s a financial commitment required for you to host a game,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “And the fact that they’re willing to do that for this group of guys…We fought (down the stretch of the season) and represented the school the right way – on the court and off the court. We had a year that our school and our athletic department should be very proud of.
“It’s very emotionally taxing when you lose a game like this, but all along our guys have fought back and I expect us to fight back on Tuesday. I hope our fans will appreciate the effort we’ve given them all year. I know it’s not the NCAA Tournament. Believe me, there’s nobody more disappointed that Randal and Chris aren’t playing in the NCAA Tournament than me. But I also want them to get a chance to continue to play and continue to compete.”