KENT: A difficult early season schedule appeared to catch up to the Kent State basketball team in a 66-59 loss to Bucknell on Wednesday night at the M.A.C. Center.
The Golden Flashes (8-2) had their six-game winning streak snapped in the final game of a seven-game homestand.
The teams traded runs throughout the game, but KSU, which looked out of sync all night, didn’t have a final offensive spurt left when it needed it most, trailing by four points with four minutes to go.
“We just had a lot of guys not play well, all on the same night,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “This [17-day] break is needed for us to get re-energized and refocused.”
The Flashes led 31-29 at halftime and used a run early in the second half, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by guards Dev Manley and Kellon Thomas, to build a seven-point advantage with 16:34 to go.
But KSU’s offense went cold, allowing the Bison to take their turn at a run. Bucknell (4-4) had a big one in store, reeling off a 15-0 spurt that turned the seven-point deficit into a 53-45 advantage with just under nine minutes left.
Flashes senior forward Darren Goodson (team-high 18 points) then took charge, going on a 6-0 run all by himself. He split two free throws, turned a rebound into a layup and then made a 3-pointer to make it 53-51 after a near seven-minute scoring drought.
Two 3-pointers by Cameron Ayers gave Bucknell a 59-55 lead with four minutes left. Limited to two first-half points, Ayers, the son of former Ohio State coach Randy Ayers, finished with 12 points.
“[Ayers] didn’t have a good game for most of the night but he just stuck with it and didn’t force things,” Senderoff said. “Then when they needed him to make a couple shots, he hit the big 3s.”
Despite Bucknell missing two free throws and turning the ball over twice, the Flashes had no answer.
Instead of the team-oriented offense KSU showed during its winning streak, the Flashes shot 3-of-10 — including attempting four mostly ill-advised 3-point shots — in the last four minutes.
“I thought we tried to do too much of what I call ‘hero ball,’ ’’ Senderoff said. “It’s where guys go, ‘I gave up a basket so I’ve got to get it back myself’ or we settled for shots early in the shot clock. To Bucknell’s credit, they stuck with what they were doing and were able to grind it out.”
With time running out, junior point guard Kris Brewer (11 points, three assists) threw a hard and high pass through the hands of Goodson and the Bison put the game out of reach for good on a Chris Hass basket and two final free throws by Ayers with 16.9 seconds left.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.