KENT: Kent State was putting the finishing touches on one of its best performances of the season when the Golden Flashes got a bad scare.
Instead of celebrating five players finishing in double figures — including 10 points from Mark Henniger at the much-maligned center position — in a 87-72 Mid-American Conference win over visiting Central Michigan, the postgame mood was a bit somber.
With 3:19 left in the game, senior guard and team leader Chris Evans went down near the top of the key at the CMU end. He stayed on the floor for several minutes in obvious pain, pounding his fists on the floor.
“They think he sprained his ankle and he’ll come back [today] and get some treatment and we’ll know a little bit more,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said of Evans, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder and whose 19 points led the Flashes in scoring. “I don’t think it’s something that’s going to prohibit him from playing, but I don’t want to speak out of turn because I’m not 100 percent sure.”
Although Senderoff and three players said afterward they did not see what happened on the play, Evans told them he twisted the ankle when he came down awkwardly on teammate Bryson Pope’s foot.
As Evans was being helped up off the floor, he was not able to put any weight on his right foot. After the buzzer sounded, Evans did not participate in the postgame handshake line, prompting several of Central Michigan’s players and coaches to come to him on the KSU bench to wish him well.
The potential long-term impact that Evans’ injury could have overshadowed an otherwise stellar night for the Golden Flashes (13-11, 4-6), who started out hot from 3-point range and then managed to clamp down on defense and fend off one Chippewas (9-14, 2-8) rally after another in the second half.
“We did a great job offensively throughout the night, probably our best offensive performance in league play,” Senderoff said. “We were moving the basketball and not turning it over, getting good shots and shooting a high percentage. Then in the second half we defended much better.”
Junior forward Darren Goodson fueled the Flashes early in the game. Goodson had 12 of his 18 points in the first half, a strong span that also included four of his six rebounds and three of his five assists in his first 17 minutes of play.
“I’m tired of losing,” said Goodson, who is averaging 15 points and shooting 56 percent from the field in the past five games. “So I thought if I could come out and be as energetic as K.B. [point guard Kris Brewer, who had 16 points] is after a turnover, I thought it would help the team.”
In the first half, a 3-point shooting contest broke out from the moment the ball was tipped off. The Flashes and Chippewas combined for 14 3-pointers. Kent State shot 60 percent from 3-point range, sinking 9-of-15 attempts, and had four players make two each to take a 44-40 halftime lead.
“We moved the ball well tonight and shot with confidence,” said senior guard Randal Holt, who contributed 15 points, including three 3-pointers. “Whenever we had an open opportunity we stepped up and shot with confidence and they fell for us tonight.”
But for as good as the Flashes were offensively, the four-point difference at halftime indicated their need to step up the defensive intensity.
“At first we were trading baskets and that’s not what we wanted to do,” Holt said. “So we started to get stops [in the second half] stringing together three in a row. We knew we were going to get whatever we wanted on the offensive end as long as we were patient and shared the ball, but we had to buckle down on the defensive end.”
With 11:22 to go in the game, CMU had cut KSU’s 12-point lead to 60-55. But after a quick reminder during a timeout to focus on defense, the Flashes pushed the lead back to 12 thanks to an 8-1 run punctuated by an Evans dunk.
The Chippewas got to within five points again, but once again the Flashes’ defense staved them off and they went on to build another comfortable lead.
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.