Kent State completed its 11-year BracketBusters run with a 70-63 victory over host Loyola-Chicago Saturday afternoon, finishing with four players in double figures.
Senior guard Chris Evans led the way with 16 points, sophomore point guard Kris Brewer followed with 14, senior guard Randal Holt added 13 and junior forward Darren Goodson chipped in 12 points.
With the win, the Flashes improved to 7-4 in BracketBusters play and 15-12 overall this season as they head into the final two weeks of the Mid-American Conference regular season.
Kent State got a spark from Goodson right out of the gate, as he led the Flashes with 10 first-half points as KSU took a 38-33 lead over Loyola (14-14) at the break after a mini run.
About 30 seconds before the halftime buzzer sounded, Evans put an exclamation point on the offensive spurt with a rousing tomahawk dunk then blocked a layup by Loyola sophomore guard Christian Thomas at the other end to serve notice the Flashes were at Gentile Arena to play in what some might have otherwise considered to be a meaningless game.
“That was a great way to finish the first half,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “I think those last five minutes spearheaded us to the win.”
A week of rest and internal focus helped the Flashes overcome a slow start Saturday.
“During our week off, we had been talking a lot about the importance of finishing halves,” Evans said. “We didn’t play well in the first 15 minutes, so we wanted to finish the first half on a good note. We really turned it up right there before the half.”
With Loyola senior center Ben Averkamp missing his sixth game with a concussion, the Ramblers relied heavily on Thomas, who finished with a game-high 31 points.
Kent State (tied for fourth place in the MAC East Division standings at 5-7) returns to action Wednesday when it hosts Buffalo (third place, 6-6) at 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center.
“It was good to get a win, whether in or out of league play,” Senderoff said. “Now we have to come back on Wednesday. Hopefully, our fans will be there because it is a big game in the league standings.”