Meers shoots down RedHawks; sophomore hits 5 3-pointers

By Allen Moff Record-Courier sports writer Published:

Nate Meers had to be wondering exactly what it would take to loosen the bolts binding his bottom to the bench. The former Stow High School standout and well-renowned sharpshooter had received nothing but limited garbage time of late due to various liabilities that have edged him out of Kent State men's basketball coach Gary Waters' favor ... and into his doghouse. But with his Golden Flashes laboring and in grave danger of dropping a key Mid-American Conference matchup to injury-depleted Miami of Ohio _ at home, nonetheless _ Waters couldn't help but turn to Meers and hope for the best. Little did he know that Meers was wearing a cape underneath his warm-up. Meers, after sitting out the entire first half, blistered the RedHawks for a career-high 18 points in 13 minutes of action in the second half, setting up junior guard Ed Norvell's game-winning three-point play with 12 seconds remaining that culminated Kent State's startling come-from-behind 66-65 victory at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center Saturday afternoon. Norvell's twisting layup and ensuing foul shot completed Kent State's comeback from a nine-point deficit in the final 5:30, a rally that was made possible almost single-handedly by the most unlikely of heroes. "Nate did a great job," said a relieved Waters. "We all know he can shoot the basketball, and his 3s were very critical to our success. He really gave us a lot." And the Flashes (7-11, 4-4 MAC) needed every bit of it. After a lackluster first-half performance, Kent State trailed a RedHawks squad (8-7, 2-5) that's still reeling from the loss of leading scorer Wally Szczerbiak (broken wrist), 32-30. And the deficit reached 42-36 minutes into the second half when Waters, seeking a desperately needed spark, called on Meers. But not before a brief hesitation. "The reasons Nate hasn't played aren't all basketball reasons," said Waters, who had played Meers a total of 13 minutes the last four games (two points). "He has struggled defensively, but we also have team rules that if you don't follow, you don't play. And you have to do the job academically ... we have no stars on this team. "I wouldn't call it desperation, but we had two guys in foul trouble and we had exhausted the rest of the guards on our bench. So Nate was the last guard left ... we wanted to see what he could do." What seemed like a subtle substitution turned out to be Kent State's saving grace. Meers immediately drained three 3-pointers, the final over Miami star guard Damon Frierson that gave Kent State a 48-47 lead, its first since the 7:42 mark of the first half. "We decided when we put Nate in the game that we were going to use him," said Waters. "We told our big guys not to post up, just set screens. We ran him off of at least three screens every time down the floor." Norvell and company knew right away that feeding Meers was a good idea. "He was an instant firecracker," said Norvell. "We knew when he hit those first couple and started screaming that it was time to go to Nate." Miami wouldn't wilt immediately under Meers' assault. Instead the RedHawks, who were in the bonus just seven minutes into the second half, regained control by sinking 8-of-9 free throws in the next seven minutes while the Flashes struggled offensively to take a 59-50 lead with 5:34 remaining. But unfortunately for the RedHawks, Meers wasn't through. The 6-foot-3 sophomore, not known for his athleticism, drove baseline and floated in a layup in traffic to trim the deficit to 59-52 before returning to his primary weapon: the long-range bomb. Meers (5-of-7 3-pointers) hit his fourth 3-pointer from well behind the arc, then stepped back and drained another when his defender fell down to bring the Flashes within one, 59-58, with 3:42 remaining. "The big guys set great screens to get me open. I give them all the credit," said Meers. "I just try to stay ready on the bench, because I want to contribute in any way I can." Miami increased its lead to 64-61 when Frierson tossed in an off-balance runner in the lane with 58 seconds remaining, but Scott Effertz (nine points, six assists) scored on a driving layup to trim the deficit to two. Frierson (17 points, 4-of-13 field goals) then split a pair from the line to set up Norvell's heroics. Norvell, who had scored just three points in the first 39-plus minutes, took the ball aggressively to the basket with his right hand, switched to his left and gently tossed in a layup as he was sent crashing to the floor by Miami's Anthony Taylor (18 points). "I told everybody to spread the floor and let Ed drive so we could get to the foul line and stop the clock," said Waters. "He did that and more. That's why you want the ball in the hands of a player with experience down the stretch." Norvell, whose troubles this season have been well-chronicled, still didn't hesitate to take the game on his shoulders. "There were 12 seconds left, and I knew no one was going to shoot the ball but me," said Norvell. Following a timeout, Norvell hit what proved to be the game-winning free throw as Frierson's fallaway baseline jumper rimmed out in the waning seconds. _____ Kent State 66, Miami (Oh.) 65 (at MAC Center) MIAMI NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP Estick 40 4-9 0-0 2-5 12 2 2 10 Ensminger 40 3-6 0-0 0-0 5 3 2 6 Lethunya 30 4-9 1-2 2-5 5 3 2 11 Taylor 40 4-7 3-3 7-8 4 4 4 18 Frierson 40 4-13 0-3 9-11 3 2 2 17 Lackaff 10 1-3 1-2 0-0 0 0 0 3 ______________________________________________ Totals 200 20-47 5-10 20-29 34 14 12 65 KENT STATE NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP Massey 25 4-12 0-2 0-0 5 2 1 8 Perry 34 2-6 0-0 2-2 1 3 1 6 Whorton 33 5-9 0-0 1-4 7 3 1 11 Effertz 30 4-7 1-1 0-0 3 5 6 9 Norvell 26 2-5 0-0 1-1 1 4 6 5 Moore 8 1-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 2 Davis 11 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 0 1 3 Vaughn 9 2-4 0-0 0-0 4 2 0 4 Callaway 11 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 2 1 0 Meers 13 6-8 5-7 1-2 2 3 1 18 ____________________________________________ Totals 200 27-56 7-15 5-9 30 24 18 66 Miami 32 33 _ 65 Kent State 30 36 _ 66 Blocked shots _ Miami (1): Estick; Kent State (2): Massey, Whorton. Turnovers _ Miami 20-18. Technical fouls _ Miami: Estick. Attendance _ 1,812.

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