CLEVELAND: Kent State’s offense went dry in the final four minutes on Friday night against the University of Akron and with it went the Golden Flashes’ NCAA Tournament hopes.
Perhaps the most telling statistic for the fourth-seeded Flashes in their 62-59 loss to the top-seeded Zips in a Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinal was that in 32 minutes, senior guard/forward Chris Evans had one field goal.
It was a memorable basket — a thunderous dunk with 6.5 seconds left in the first half right over UA 7-foot center Zeke Marshall. Marshall also fouled Evans, who converted the free throw to complete the three-point play and cut the Zips’ lead to 32-29 at halftime.
But Evans’ only other points came at the free-throw line, where he went 4-for-5 to finish with six points after scoring 25 points the night before in a quarterfinal win over Buffalo. The Flashes shot just 35.7 from the field, yet were in the game right until the Zips’ Brian Walsh sealed it with two free throws with 6.7 seconds left.
Marshall and his seven blocks had a lot to do with limiting KSU and especially Evans, keeping him from taking over late in the game like he did in willing the Flashes to victory in the quarterfinals.
A layup attempt by Evans that rimmed out with 3:24 to go and the Flashes clinging to a lead illustrated KSU’s frustrations.
“That summed up the night,” Evans said. “Getting good looks right at the basket and them not falling. Akron played great defense, it was a frustrating night for me.”
Kent State’s other senior leader — guard Randal Holt — did all he could. Holt finished with 19 points, including three 3-pointers, but his final two long-range attempts will be the lasting memory. Holt misfired from behind the 3-point arc with 15 seconds to go and again with 11 seconds left.
“They were good looks,” Holt said. “I shot them with confidence, [but] they didn’t drop … we got some good looks [in the final minutes] from the top of the rim and some good looks from the perimeter. They just didn’t fall for us.”
If there’s a silver lining for the Flashes (20-13) following such a heart-breaker, it’s the fact that minutes after the final buzzer, Kent State’s athletic administration had already accepted a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and will host a game at the M.A.C. Center on Tuesday night. The Flashes’ opponent will be announced today or Sunday.
“Those tournaments, there’s a financial commitment required for you to host a game,” Rob Senderoff said. “And the fact that they’re willing to do that for this group of guys … We fought [down the stretch of the season] and represented the school the right way — on the court and off the court. We had a year that our school and our athletic department should be very proud of.
“It’s very emotionally taxing when you lose a game like this, but all along our guys have fought back and I expect us to fight back on Tuesday. I hope our fans will appreciate the effort we’ve given them all year. I know it’s not the NCAA Tournament. Believe me, there’s nobody more disappointed that Randal and Chris aren’t playing in the NCAA Tournament than me. But I also want them to get a chance to continue to play and continue to compete.”
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.