Kent State’s roller coaster season came to a halt Sunday in Maryland, as the Golden Flashes fell to Loyola 73-59 at Reitz Arena in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
Playing once again with senior guard Chris Evans at less than 100 percent, the Flashes offense struggled. Evans, who led KSU in scoring all season at 16.7 points per game, wasn’t his usual explosive self while dealing with a nagging right ankle sprain.
Evans and fellow senior Randal Holt each finished with 13 points, as the Flashes (21-14) completed a season that was headed down the tubes at the halfway point by rebounding with a surprising 20-win campaign.
“Overall, I’m really proud of the effort of our guys this season,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “Our players who are coming back have to continue to get better but I’m very proud of the year that Chris and Randal had.”
Sunday, it appeared the Flashes might catch a break when Dylon Cormier, the Greyhounds’ top player who entered Sunday averaging 16.5 points, did not start due to a coach’s decision. But the junior guard entered the game five minutes into the action and went on to score 18 points.
Still, it was Greyhounds senior Erik Etherly who gave the Flashes the most trouble, paving the way to send Loyola into the tournament’s quarterfinals. The 6-foot-7 post scored a game-high 27 points that included going 17-of-19 at the free-throw line while guard Robert Olson rounded out double-figure scorers with 10 points that all came in the second half.
“It was just a tough night for us overall,” Senderoff said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well, and Etherly and Cormier for Loyola were really good. We had a tough time with both of them.”
The Flashes started the game off slow and fell behind as much as nine points early. But a 5-0 KSU run highlighted by a Kris Brewer 3-pointer put KSU right back in it at 17-13, with seven-plus minutes to go in the first half.
But another offensive lull ensued and Loyola’s lead nearly grew back to double digits before KSU used another mini run to pull to within three points, 24-21, punctuated by a Khaliq Spicer two-handed dunk with just over three minutes left before the break.
The Greyhounds responded with a run of their own over the final minutes of the first half to take a 31-25 halftime lead with each team shooting just 9-for-30 from the field during the ugly start.
But the second half wasn’t much better for the Flashes, who were never really able to make a serious run to threaten the Greyhounds lead, save for a Holt 3-pointer with five minutes to go that pulled KSU to within 10 points at 60-50.
“Our [three] seniors did a great job this year,” Senderoff said. “Chris’ work ethic, Randal’s competitiveness and [reserve] Brian Frank’s commitment to the group are all things future players [and] returning players here can emulate.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. 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.