Kent State set a new school record with 18 3-pointers Friday night but ended up needing every last one of them to down a feisty and veteran-led University of South Carolina Upstate.
Junior guard Dev Manley led the way with seven 3’s for a team-high 21 points as the Golden Flashes escaped with a 79-78 victory during the second day of subregional play in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic hosted at the at the M.A.C. Center.
“Last year against Chicago State I had six (3-pointers),” Manley said with a shrug.
In surpassing the prevous school mark of 16 3-pointers (thanks to a whopping 34 attempts), Kent State finished just two shy of matching the Mid-American Conference record of 20 3-pointers in a game, which came on Jan. 7, 2004 in a game between Ohio and Duquesne. The NCAA record for 3’s in a game is 28 by Troy, set in 2004.
The 3-point theme was established from the get go as Kent State (5-1) shot a red-hot 75% from 3-point range on 9-of-12 shooting in the first half. While holding a 31-22 lead with 6:38 to play in the half, only four Kent State points had come off two-point baskets.
But USC Upstate (2-3) joined in the 3-point fun, as the teams combined for 15 3-pointers in the half – including 11 by Kent State – as the Flashes held a 42-34 advantage at halftime.
“There were a couple points in the game where I thought maybe we needed to go to a zone defense,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “But at the same time, you worry about playing zone because you know (Spartans guard) Ty Greene and (forward) Torrey Craig may get some decent looks. And they’re such a good passing team, I was worried about that. But had we lost, I certainly would have questioned myself as to why we didn’t play zone.”
With both squads electing to remain in man coverage, the break did nothing to cool off either team’s sharp shooters. The second half started just like the first - with another barrage of 3-pointers. The Spartans’ first four baskets came via 3’s while Manley nailed his fifth 3-pointer for the Flashes.
However, with Kent State missing a handful of easy shots at the rim in the middle of USC Upstate’s early second-half 3-point run, the Spartans were able to catch up quickly and erase the defict while taking a 48-47 lead with 15:08 left in the game.
When the Flashes shooting touch went away, it did so drastically for nearly 10 minutes as Kent State went without a field goal until junior guard Derek Jackson sunk - what else but a 3-pointer - with 8:51 to go to snap another tie and give KSU a 55-52 lead.
“That was tough, real tough,” junior point guard Kris Brewer said of the long stretch without a field goal. “But the captains and the senior leadership had to come in and tell everyone to just use defense and pressure the ball.”
But Jackson’s timley 3-pointer ignited another long-distance surge as the Flashes hit five more 3’s before their final one – Jackson’s third and final that gave him 15 points and KSU a 74-70 lead with 2:25 left.
“We have natural fight in us, we’re not going to give up,” Manley said. “So after the time out, we were hungry, we were ready to fight. We knew we were hitting, so we knew if we kept playing hard, the shots would fall.”
Sophomore guard Kellon Thomas made a pair of free throws on a 1&1 attempt to increase KSU’s lead to 78-75 with 32 seconds to go. But with Upstate having the ball coming out of timeout, the Spartans convereted it into an old-fashioned 3-point play via a basket and a foul to tie the game 78-all with 17.8 left on the clock.
Kent State called a time out to draw up a final play and with Manley covered well defensively in the corner, Brewer took the ball to the rim and was fouled on the drive.
“The play was designed for me in the timeout,” Brewer said. “Coach just told me to bring the ball up and make a play. I was going to hit Dev in the corner, but his man was on him good. So I just took it to the rack strong and tried to draw a foul.”
Brewer made just one of two free throws with 5.1 seconds to go, but Spartans foreward Riccardo Glenn missed a close shot from the side of the basket at the buzzer.
The Classic’s subregional action wraps up play at Kent State Saturday night when USC Upstate takes on Western Carolina at 5 p.m. The Flashes then play Niagara in a game slated to start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game at approximately 7:30 p.m.