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It's a raucous crowd at the M.A.C. Center. I can't see a spare seat. With attendance of 6,237, it's an announced sell-out.
Nik Cvetinovic scored Akron's first bucket. It took me a couple seconds to understand why the fans were chanting "USA! USA! USA!" when he has the ball.
Bo Boroski is calling the game. His first questionable whistle came at the 16:20 mark, a loose-ball foul on Brett McKnight.
Justin Greene just scored his 1,000th point. He's the 28th Kent player to do so.
Zeke Marshall got a power dunk off of a McKnight feed. After a 3 from Darryl Roberts, the Zips capped a 10-0 run.
Marshall may or may not have gotten a block on our end of the floor. A bunch of Kent students' heads were in my line of sight. This is definitely the worst place to watch a game from a media standpoint of all the stadiums I've attended.
Marshall got a taste of his own medicine (nice cliche, Mike) when Greene slapped his shot away. Unfortunately for Kent, the ball went out of bounds and Steve McNees pitched a perfect alley-oop to Marshall on the inbounds pass.
I was a little late getting here. It's like my subconscious always avoids spending unnecessary time in Kent. I was sorely late for the football game in the fall.
Kent State went on a 9-2 run of its own to retake the lead at 17-16, before Roberts nailed a 3 from the corner to retake the lead.
Kent State's new football coach moved into a home in Stow. I want to welcome Darrell Hazell to the city, but express my concern with him wearing a "Beat Akron" shirt on the front of the Beacon Journal's sports section a couple months ago.
The AK-Rowdies accomplished something I've never seen from a road fanbase. They fooled Michael Porrini into thinking the shot clock was running down. The Flashes guard missed an off-balanced 3.
Kent State is now 0-for-8 on 3-point attempts.
Marshall volleyball-spiked a shot into the backcourt, past the halfcourt line. That's another feat you don't see very often.
Quincy Diggs and Alex Abreu have looked really good tonight. Diggs has been aggressive to the rim. Abreu has too, and made some nice dishes off the dribble-drive.
I will take this opportunity to thank Mike Waddell, formerly the interim athletic director at Akron, for the funniest moment I've seen at a college game. He orchestrated the AK-Rowdies to "turn heel" by revealing Roo gear beneath their "Kent State Stark" T-shirts. Absolutely classic. Anytime you can mix pro wrestling storylines into basketball, you've gotta do it. Waddell, by the way, is now the AD at Towson, in Maryland.
Marshall has done a great job playing defense on Greene. The Zips' center took a seat after committing his second foul, and immediately Greene got an easy put-back on an offensive rebound. Not being a "basketball person," per se, I'm just now seeing how Marshall impacts the game, even if he doesn't grab rebounds, score or even block shots.
Kent State 27, Akron 31 - Halftime
It's premature to say who's the better team tonight, because the Flashes could easily run off 15 points in three minutes, but it is safe to say that Akron is not suffering from any confidence issues after the Ohio game.
In my haste, I left my power cord at my office in Cleveland. I'm against the clock now, with 1:30 left on my battery and a half of basketball left to play, plus the 15 minutes of halftime.
Notable halftime stats: Greene has eight points; Diggs, seven. Greene and Roberts have four rebounds apiece. Abreu has four assists; Porrini, two. Marshall has two blocks. Both teams have 16 points in the paint. Akron is shooting 43.3 percent; Kent, 33.3 percent, including 1-for-9 on 3-pointers. Akron is 1-for-4 on free throws.
LOL. My computer now says I have 2:22 of battery left. And that marks my third-ever "LOL" in the five-plus years writing this blog. If this were a government job, I'd be set up with a pension.
Since this is the blogosphere, I would be remissed for not mentioning the antics of Charlie Sheen. Is it wrong that I find his behavior slightly less offensive because he wears a Cleveland Indians hat in his Twitter pics? #Winning #Tigerblood #Teamsheen
My impression is that Akron brings more fans to Kent than Kent brings to Akron.
Cvetinovic got beat on an offensive rebound. Keith Dambrot was so mad, he was almost out to the 3-point line, pumping his fist at the Serbian.
Greene, with his excellent touch around the rim, scored two buckets to bring the Flashes back within two.
What a difference Zeke makes. He checked back into the game at the 15:30 mark and immediately shoved a Greene attempt from whence it came.
Geno Ford called a smart play. He started Greene off with the ball at the perimeter, so Marshall would be a foot behind as Greene drove. Marshall was whistled for his third foul -- a big one. Greene scored again on the next play to tie the game.
Kent took its first lead since 8-6 on a 3-point play by Eric Gaines.
Carlton Guyton got the biggest roar from the crowd by crossing-over Cvetinovic at the top of the key and prancing to the rim for a dunk. Poor Nik should not have been out there alone against an explosive guard.
Everyone's favorite Cleveland Brown, Josh Cribbs, is talking smack on Twitter concurrently with this game. I'm sorry. I lied. Peyton Hillis is everyone's favorite Brown. And it shouldn't be close.
A T-shirt just came whizzing over my shoulder, into the media area. The gentleman sitting next to me tossed it back to the rabid Kent students.
Key stat of the night so far: Greene has six offensive rebounds. Akron, as a team, has eight.
Kent built the lead up to five on penetration layups. McNees hit a 3 to bring it back to two.
Make another check next to Boroski's name. He blew the whistle on a bogus loose-ball foul against McKnight. Guyton made the Zips pay by splashing a 3.
Roberts answered with his own 3. He is now 3-of-3 from long range.
Boroski blew another ticky-tack call -- this one on Kent State in the backcourt. As we discussed earlier in the season, Boroski has a reputation for making controversial calls. It doesn't help him that he looks like a villain -- with dark black hair and stern expression.
Diggs made a beautiful cut around a Marshall screen and scored while being fouled. If he gets confidence to do that regularly, he would be a huge asset. Akron trails by one with six minutes left.
Kent State is getting far too many layups. The Flashes also have made three of their last four attempts on 3s. That with their offensive rebounding, and you can see why they keep scoring. Kent now leads by six with 5:16 remaining.
Rodriguez Sherman and Randal Holt are getting to the rim with ease, beating McKnight and McNees, respectively. Give the Zips credit for continuing to make shots to prevent the spread from getting greater than six. McNees just hit a 3. Kent is up two with 3:50 left.
Kent State finally had enough and decided it would be the first defense to clamp down. Abreu found himself trapped eight feet from the 3-point line with the shot clock nearing zero. He chucked a shot that never got higher than nine feet off the floor. Kent ball, with a four point lead and 2:45 left.
Kent fans are chanting "bullspit" or something like that, because of a foul on Marshall. They should have been happy to send the poor foul shooter to the line for one-and-one. Marshall clanked the first one.
Wow. The Kent fans are doing the "I believe that we have won" chant. There is 1:46 left. Kent has the ball, up four. I think that's waaaaay to premature. Sort of like the poor coach who had Gatorade dumped on him, only to watch a miracle final play lose the bowl game for his team.
Sherman made a sweet jumper from the elbow to extend the lead to six. The refs missed a foul on the other end, which led to Kent getting a loose ball. A 3-pointer from the corner sealed the game.
The Kent students unveiled a bedsheet that says "LANDFILL 13 MILES." Funny.
Boroski just ejected Diggs from the game. It looked like there was a minor skirmish between Guyton and Diggs (not even any shoving), and Boroski pulled the quick trigger on Diggs. It's inconsequential, but also a serious overreaction. Guyton also was called for a technical.
This game was closer than the scoreboard dictates, but it was also clear Kent out-played Akron. The crowd was fantastic for the Flashes.
Kent 79, Akron 68 -- FINAL SCORE
The Kent students stormed the court a few minutes after the game buzzer sounded. They are celebrating a regular season MAC Championship. There are few things I hate more than seeing Kent fans celebrate. Seeing Democrats celebrate in November is up there, but since this campus is so liberal, it really is a toss-up.
With the loss, Akron will fall behind Ohio in the standings. They will be no better than fifth, but no worse than seventh. Buffalo and Ball State can surpass the Zips, as well. It depends on the Buffalo/Bowling Green and Ball State/Northern Illinois game. Akron, of course, has lost to two of the three likely first-round opponents (NIU and EMU).
Notable final stats: Diggs led Akron with 12. Greene had 18; Sherman, 17; Guyton, 16; and Holt, 14. Greene had 10 rebounds. No Zip had more than four. Kent shot 50.8 percent; Akron, 50 percent. Kent outrebounded Akron, 37 to 26.
"It was a good game. Typical Akron-Kent game. I'm happy for him (Ford), because he's a good guy. When it mattered, they out-athleted us and out-toughed us. We had trouble guarding and rebounding when it mattered. You have to make plays at crunch time, and we missed a free throw. We're scrambling for our lives and you just got to make those."
"They just kind of spread us out and drove us. They went a little smaller. We couldn't keep Zeke in the game very much, which was a whole factor. We probably should have played a little more zone. We guarded them the first half man-to-man. We thought Nik Cvetinovic could guard the perimeter, but he didn't guard anyone tonight."
"I didn't like the call on the out-of-bounds play. I'm allowed to argue a call."
"Quincy, I don't know what happened with Quincy. He's a good kid. He just talked."
"They shouldn't get away with it (playing four guards at once)."
"Composure was a nonfactor. Defensive discipline was the problem."
"I thought by far they were dominant last year. This team got hurt because of the Guyton thing, which is a shame. This team is good in its own way. When Greene isn't good, they struggle."
"We got killed at Ohio U. I didn't know what we were going to do tonight. It says a lot about our guys. We were 12-10. People wrote us off for dead. Then we win seven in a row and people think we're good again. Then we get crushed at Ohio U and people think we stink again. Then we come in here and were pretty competitive. We showed we have that iron chin. We just have to get out of the first round."
"We are one of the teams with a chance to win. If the big fella plays, we can be right there every night. Do we have enough depth to win the tournament? I believe we do. We play nine guys."
"This team has been a little Jeckyl-and-Hydish when it comes to that (defense)."
"That's what it all came down to, one-on-one defense. They earned it."
On not getting the bye: "I think it's better in a way to play four games. Some teams come in with that game off. They may come in a little sluggish. We want to be warmed up. I feel it's kind of an advantage."
"They had four offensive rebounds in a row, and that hurts."
"We didn't defend one-on-one. That was one of the key points. We didn't do that in the second half."
"That was the regular season. Now the big season comes. It's the MAC Tournament. Congratulations to them, but the big prize is the MAC Tournament."
On the play where Dambrot was pumping his fist: "That was to the referees. He almost got T'ed up."
"We're still a team that won seven in a row. These last two, we played good quality teams that are good at home. Their crowds. Their Senior Night. We still have a very young team."
"They rebound with five guys. That's big for them."
"It's not good that we lost this, but we haven't played any MAC Tournament games."
[battery is dying, probably won't get Kent State quotes]