BOWLING GREEN - Kent State is a veteran team. With six seniors on its roster, its the most the program has had since the 1991-92 season. According to the website Statsheet.com, the Golden Flashes are the 16th most experienced team in the nation. Even though KSU is battle tested and have players who have played over 100 games in the blue and gold, it is never too late to mature.
Last night at Anderson Arena in Bowling Green, a veteran team continued to learn, mature and grow.
When it was over the Flashes had come from 12 points down at halftime to defeat the Falcons 75-69 in front of 1,630 fans, including some raucous Flash fans behind the Kent State bench. Sophomore Justin Greene led the Flashes with 26 points on 8-10 shooting and 10-13 at the free throw line. Senior Chris Singletary had 12 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Kent State used a 14-2 run in the second half to take a one point lead. Singletary was instrumental during the run with seven points, three rebounds and two steals.
Senior Mike McKee concluded the run with a three pointer to put KSU up with 11:31 to go. The Pittsburgh native came right back down on the next trip and nailed another huge three to give the Flashes a 50-48 lead.
“Mike’s threes were huge for us,” said Kent State Head Coach Geno Ford. “He really showed some senior maturity and stepped up with two big shots when we needed them.”
Kent State was able to shoot a staggering 75-percent in the second half after shooting just 32-percent in the first half. The Flashes were able to exploit BGSU's 2-3 zone by easily getting the ball into the high post to Singletary. From there Singletary was either able to drive to the body of the Falcons' Otis Polk or come up with some nice passes to Kent State's bigs.
“In the second half I thought we were really sharp defensively and we started getting the ball in the middle of their zone which led to some easy baskets for us,” said Ford.
As entertaining and fun the second half comeback was to watch for Kent State fans, the first half was just as miserable. Bowling Green was the team scorching the nets to the tune of 64-percent. Polk and Scott Thomas led the Falcons with 10 and nine points respectively in the first half blitz.
Singletary was in foul trouble early, picking up his second foul with 13:26 remaining forcing Ford and his staff to manage his minutes the rest of the way.
Kent State's perimeter shooting, which figured to be a key in the game against the zone, was 1-9 in the first half from behind the arc. It looked like Kent State might be on its way to its third consecutive defeat at the venerable gym.
"I didn't think we played with the intensity at the defensive end we need to play with," Ford said of the first half.
As is tradition with the Kent State basketball program, halftime can be where seniors give some of the most emotional, energy filled speeches. While there is no doubt that went on, it was Ford's turn after that.
“Coach Ford was brutally honest,” said Singletary. “He went at us collectively, and individually; he didn’t hold anything back, either. You could see it on the faces of the guys as we came out of the locker room. We were ready to start playing.”
"We didn't make any strategic adjustments," Ford said. "We ran the same plays. We got the ball to the same guys, they just finished plays instead of in the first half not finishing anything."
Playing with championship caliber execution and perseverance in the second half, the Flashes have earned the right to play for a championship.
"We showed some heart tonight and we showed some togetherness," Ford said.
“We didn’t compete hard enough,” BG head coach Louis Orr said. “Defensively we just didn’t get the job done, that’s why we didn’t win. “We got on our heels. They became the aggressor,” Orr added. “In the first half I thought we were the aggressor. In the second half, the roles were reversed.”
With the win the Flashes also clinch a bye in the first round of the MAC tournament. Kent State's first game will be Thursday, March 11 at The Q in Cleveland at a time to be determined later.
Kent State will play its final home game of the season on Saturday, February 27th. The Golden Flashes will host Miami at 7:00 p.m. It will be Senior Day and Hall of Fame Day for the KSU program.
FLASHES SURVIVE "HOUSE OF HORRORS" - They call Anderson Arena "The House That Roars." While the roaring nowadays might be reserved for Curt Miller's BGSU women's team, the old gym has become a very difficult place to play for the Flashes recently. In 2008 Kent State came in ranked No. 23 in the nation before being upset to the Falcons. Last season Kent State came in riding an eight game winning streak only to lose a tight game when Tyree Evans missed a shot at the buzzer. Ford couldn't have been very surprised when he read the text message on his phone before the game Wednesday night. "Good luck in the house of horrors," it read. The message was from former Kent State player and assistant coach Eric Haut. Haut is in his second season at Texas Christian under former KSU boss Jim Christian. The Horned Frogs lost on Wednesday night at UNLV.
FORD: "SINGLETARY SHOULD BE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - With the MAC Player of the Year debates heated up among the conference media members and across internet message boards, Geno Ford made his case for his guy, Chris Singletary. "He should be player of the year in the league if we continue to win. He's certainly the one guy you have to game plan the most for...How you're going to guard him. There aren't a lot of guys that get assists, get rebounds and score. When he's out, we're obviously not as good."
BACK IN BLACK - Kent State brought back the black road uniforms on Wednesday. While I am not crazy about how they look, something tells me they will wear them on March 5 at Akron in a game that will decide the MAC regular season championship, automatic NIT bid and No. 1 seed in the MAC tournament. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The Akron marketing campaign started a long time ago for their "white out."
NOTES...Greene had a streak of 24 consecutive made free throws snapped but still managed to shoot 10-13 at the line...It is the fifth time in the last 12 games that KSU has shot 65-percent or better in the second half...Singletary is now tied with Ed Norvell for third all-time with 184 career steals...KSU has won 11 straight when scoring at least 62 points and is now 21-2 this season.