KENT: With 7.3 seconds left in Tuesday night’s game, the 2,853 fans in attendance at the M.A.C. Center rose to their feet to give much-deserved standing ovations to Kent State seniors Chris Evans and Randal Holt, as they exited the home floor for the final time, and for reserve senior Brian Frank, as he entered the game one last time on Senior Night.
KSU’s 69-61 win over Bowling Green coupled with Ohio’s win over Buffalo, gave the Golden Flashes a coveted No. 4 seed in next week’s Mid-American Conference Tournament. The seed gives them a bye into the third round of play at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
“I’m really happy that we won on Senior Night,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “It’s obviously always an emotional night for everyone — the players, their families and the coaching staff — so we’re thrilled to come away with a win.”
A few minutes after the final buzzer sounded, the three seniors walked one last time to the corner of the floor where the school’s victory bell sat. Frank, Evans and Holt rang the bell one last time in front of cheering fans.
“It’s a humbling feeling for fans to show their appreciation for us like that,” said Evans, who finished with a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds, along with a career-high seven assists. “It was also overwhelming and kind of emotional.”
The Flashes took advantage of a slow start by Bowling Green and led 12-2 in the first seven minutes before the Falcons regrouped and cut the lead to seven points.
Kent State answered with an 11-4 spurt that included 3-pointers by Kris Brewer and Evans and another three-point play by Evans to push the Flashes’ advantage to 28-14 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Kent State increased its lead to a game-high 17 points with 2:25 to go, but an 11-0 run by Bowling Green to end the first half made it 35-29.
“We just lost our men in transition a little bit and they got a couple easy buckets,” Evans said. “That allowed them to build a little momentum going into the second half.”
Bowling Green scored the first three points of the second half before two 3-pointers by Brewer stopped the run. The Falcons took advantage of three three-point plays in the first four minutes of the second half and cut KSU’s lead to 43-42.
But when the Falcons (12-18, 6-9 MAC) briefly switched to a 2-3 zone, Holt made two 3-pointers that gave the momentum back to the Flashes (18-12, 8-7).
“I saw we were kind of struggling to score and I just tried to be aggressive and looked for my shot,” said Holt, who led all scorers with 16 points.
The Falcons continued to fight back and took their only lead of the night at 58-57 with 6:41 remaining on junior forward Craig Sealey’s dunk. But KSU responded with a 7-0 run that included back-to-back baskets, one a dunk, by reserve center Mark Henniger, who was fouled each time.
“That dunk’s been coming for a long time now,” said Henniger, who had nine points. “[Evans] gave me an assist down low and I knew we needed something to boost the team.”
Kent State maintained a slight lead the rest of the way, although Bowling Green did not go easily, trailing just 65-61 with 1:36 to go.
“Our guys fought,” Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. “Over the years we’ve been coming here, the first half has been a struggle for us. But we fought, started the second half strong and were right there. It was anybody’s game down the stretch.”
But Brewer (11 points) made a clutch shot that just beat the shot clock, and the Flashes sealed the win at the free-throw line.
“The way we won sort of personifies our team,” Senderoff said.
“Play well, find a way to screw it up and then as opposed to folding, we battle back and are able to get a great win.”
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://twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.