CLEVELAND — Guards typically win big college basketball games, a fact that normally works in Kent State's favor.

But the Golden Flashes ran into a backcourt buzzsaw from Central Michigan in Thursday's Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

The Chippewas guards used their superior speed and quickness to consistently create open looks inside and out, and they repeatedly cashed in while rolling past the Flashes 89-81 at Quicken Loans Arena.

No. 5 seed Central Michigan's two starting guards and top sub combined to score 59 points on 9-of-14 shooting from 3-point range. They produced 15 points during a 22-2 run midway through the second half that turned a one-point deficit into a commanding 19-point lead over fourth-seeded Kent State (22-10).

“We have good guards, but so do they,” said KSU coach Rob Senderoff, whose squad lost by 10 points in Mount Pleasant last month. “Their guards were able to get in the paint at will. They're relentless in their transition game, and both times we played them, we struggled.”

Flashes junior forward Philip Whittington enjoyed a monster game, shooting 10-of-15 from the floor while scoring a career-high 23 points. He grabbed 14 rebounds to notch his eighth double-double of the year, and added three blocked shots.

Senior shooting guard Jaylin Walker backed Whittington with 19 points and 11 boards. Senderoff held Walker out of last Friday's Senior Night victory over Akron for an unspecified reason, and his playing status for Thursday wasn't completely certain until Walker’s name was included in the starting lineups released to the media about an hour before tip-off.

Senior point guard Jalen Avery, still hobbled by an ankle injury suffered during Kent State's Feb. 8 loss at Akron, wound up with 13 points but most were scored during a futile late comeback effort. Avery made only 1-of-10 3-pointers.

Kent State's backcourt issues were exposed by Central Michigan standout senior guards Larry Austin and Shawn Roundtree, along with junior sub Dallas Morgan.

The Flashes couldn't handle the quickness of Austin, who scored 23 points without taking a 3-pointer and tacked on six assists, five rebounds and three steals. Roundtree took full advantage of open outside looks, hitting 5-of-7 3s for 20 points, while Morgan doubled his scoring average with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep.

Kent State fell behind 14-5 out of the gate, regrouped behind Whittington to take a 23-21 lead, then once again trailed by double digits until a late Whittington layup brought his team within 42-34 at intermission. Whittington had 14 points at the break.

After getting beaten badly on the glass in the first half, a third-chance bucket by Walker fueled a 9-0 run that brought the Flashes within one at 47-46. Kent State then took a 52-51 lead when Walker's pull-up jumper rolled in at the 13:28 mark.

But the Chippewas (23-10) kicked their transition game into high gear and ran away from Kent State. Morgan's second 3-pointer in the midst of Central Michigan's 22-2 run gave his team a 69-54 lead.

The Flashes kept fighting and crept as close as seven points with 2:37 to go on a 3 by junior guard Antonio Williams, but never seriously threatened Central Michigan down the stretch.