KENT: During Kent State’s recent losing streak, Golden Flashes players kept looking and waiting for someone, anyone, to step up and make a difference at crucial points in each game.
But game after game during the rough patch — in which KSU dropped four of five and three consecutive — a savior never materialized. Until Saturday.
Embattled senior forward Darren Goodson did a majority of the heavy lifting and sophomore forward Chris Ortiz provided the perfectly timed spark as the two hauled Kent State out of its offensive slump with an 86-74 victory over Ball State.
Goodson, whose poor play had recently relegated him to the bench, finished with a season-high 23 points. He led three players in double-figure scoring — Kris Brewer contributed 18 points and Derek Jackson chipped in 12 — as KSU shot a blistering 64.3 percent in the second half to rally from a dozen points behind and put the game away.
“Darren Goodson played outstanding at every level,” Cardinals coach James Whitford said of Goodson, whose three-point play handed the Flashes a 59-57 lead with 11:17 to go. “He’d really struggled as of late and he’s a really important player for them. I give him credit because he made 3s, made plays off the dribble. He hadn’t shot well from beyond the arc, but he did tonight. He was the difference in the game.”
With the Flashes (10-5, 1-1 in Mid-American Conference) trailing the feisty Cardinals (3-10, 0-2) in the second half at the M.A.C. Center, Ortiz’s hustle provided the much-needed and long-awaited lift to help continue a 23-8 run. Included in the early second-half spurt were two aggressive baseline drives that resulted in three-point plays.
“Between [assistant] coach [DeAndre] Haynes working with me and guarding Darren every day [in practice], I had no choice but to be aggressive,” said Ortiz, who had nine points, five rebounds, and an assist, block and steal in just 13 minutes. “I’m bigger and stronger than I really think, so I need to utilize it whenever I can now.”
Added Goodson: “He’s been driving me all the time in practice and giving me all that, so I told him it was time to do it to someone else.”
The time came six and a half minutes into the second half, when Ortiz’s strong moves to the basket caught the Cardinals off guard and helped bring KSU back from behind by a dozen points.
“Chris has been practicing well and working incredibly hard in practice,” KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. “He’d been being more aggressive in practice and now he’s starting to get more confident with it in games.”
Heading into the second game of league play, the Flashes’ game plan was to limit the touches in the post of senior forward Majok Majok and try to keep him off the offensive glass.
Yet, the first half began with the 6-foot-9, 245-pounder scoring eight of Ball State’s first 10 points as 12 of his 14 points came in the first half. His early dominance forced Kent State to call a timeout just five minutes into the action in an effort to draw up something different defensively and make it harder for the big guy to get to the basket.
But the Flashes quickly found they had more problems than the inside pressure from Majok. Just three minutes later, they had to stop the action again as the deficit ballooned to 13 points thanks to a 10-0 Cardinals run that gave the visitors a 20-7 advantage.
Dev Manley’s 3-pointer pulled KSU to within eight points at 25-18, but Ball State reeled off a 5-0 spurt that resulted in a 30-18 advantage with 7:30 to play. Kent State switched to full-court pressure that held Ball State scoreless for a four-minute stretch and rallied to within one point with 1:32 to go before the Cardinals finished on a 6-0 run for a 39-32 halftime advantage.
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.