Kris Brewer was having an awful shooting night Wednesday night during Kent State’s game at Northern Illinois.
Coach Rob Senderoff was frustrated enough with his team’s leading scorer (Brewer leads the Golden Flashes with 12.8 points per game, including 16.3 in Mid-American Conference games), he subbed reserve Kellon Thomas into the game to give Brewer time to regroup.
Brewer did that and more, going on to score 19 of his game-high 25 points in the final 8:25 of regulation and the five-minute overtime period, sparking Kent State to a 73-64 win over the host Huskies.
After leading a furious second-half rally that erased a 13-point deficit, Brewer, who missed five of his first six shots, scored nine of KSU’s 15 points in overtime to seal the victory.
“Sometimes it takes one of the coaches to get up in you,” said KSU assistant coach DeAndre Haynes, a former Flashes point guard, following Wednesday’s victory. “[Brewer] starts the game really slow and defensive wise, he wasn’t doing what we need him to do. So, coach got in him and I went to talk to him.
“I told him we needed him to lead us because we can’t win games without him leading us to the promised land. Sometimes, that’s what it takes — for a guy to get mad and sit on the bench a little bit to clear his head, then come back in and help us win. And that’s exactly what he did.”
When Brewer was on his way to the scorer’s table to check back into the game, Haynes approached him again.
“I said, ‘Are you ready?’ And I looked in his eyes and he said confidently, ‘I’m ready.’ Then he went out and showed it,” Haynes said. “That is the kind of leadership we need … these are the kind of [performances] out of him we’re going to need to be successful.”
Brewer’s leadership and the Flashes’ resolve will likely be tested again today when KSU plays at Buffalo at 6 p.m.
“It’s another tough road game for us,” Brewer said. “But I think, myself included, we’re learning what it takes to find the resolve we need to compete in league games. Sometimes, like the last game, it takes one guy being aggressive and taking control to lead the team. We’ve been good at overcoming big deficits. Now, we have to work to keep from putting ourselves in that kind of situation regularly.”
Although the Flashes (11-5, 2-1 MAC) beat the Bulls (8-5, 2-1) three times last season, in two regular-season games and in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals at Quicken Loans Arena, escaping Alumni Arena with a win has never been an easy task. Buffalo is 7-0 at home this season.
A big reason for the Bulls’ success has been MAC Player of the Year candidate Javon McCrea. A 6-foot-7, 250-pound senior forward, McCrea ranks among the league’s leaders in scoring (17.0), rebounding (9.6) and blocked shots (3.1). He also tends to play especially well against the Flashes.
Last season, McCrea averaged 28.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 blocks against KSU. In eight career games against KSU, McCrea has scored at least 20 points five times and twice reached 30 points. He’s 20 points shy of moving into a third-place tie on the Bulls’ career scoring list.
Buffalo also features Joshua Freelove, a transfer from Alabama State. A senior guard, Freelove averages 12.2 points and leads the MAC in 3-point shots per game (2.2).
The biggest new name associated with the Buffalo program is former NBA player and new coach Bobby Hurley, who helped lead Duke to three Final Four appearances and consecutive national championships in the early 1990s.
Under Hurley’s guidance, Buffalo had recently begun to find its winning ways before having its four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday on a buzzer-beating shot by Toledo’s Julius Brown.
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.