MT. PLEASANT, Mich. _ Heroic efforts by junior guard Ed Norvell and sophomore sharpshooter Nate Meers helped the Kent State men's basketball team (8-12, 5-5 MAC) escape Rose Arena with its first road win of the year, a hard-earned 73-70 Mid-American Conference triumph over Central Michigan (3-15, 1-9) Thursday night.
Norvell tied his career-high with 23 points, and hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 1:35 which proved to be the difference. Meanwhile, Meers, the former Stow High School standout, drained 6-of-9 3-pointers _ the third most in Kent State history _ and finished with 20 points off the bench.
"This is a big win," said Kent State coach Gary Waters. "We've had many (close) games like this, but we've been on the short end. This group has to learn how to win on the road."
Norvell, who entered the game averaging just seven points per game and shooting 27 percent from 3-point range (12-of-44), hit two 3-pointers and scored nine points in the first 4:30 of the contest to help the Flashes take a quick 11-3 lead. Then Meers came off the bench firing, as he hit a short jumper and a 3-pointer to extend Kent State's lead to 20-7 at the 10:55 mark.
After the Chippewas trimmed the lead to 28-23, the Flashes responded with a 12-4 run in the closing minutes of the first half. Scott Effertz hit a 3-pointer and Norvell hit 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled while attempting a halfcourt shot at the buzzer to increase the lead to 40-27 at halftime.
But Central Michigan shot their way back into contention in the second half.
The Chippewas drained six 3-pointers in the first eight-plus minutes, including back-to-back treys by Tim Kisner that brought CMU within 54-53.
Central tied the game at 57 on a layup by Dan Schell and jumped on top 65-63 with 5:44 remaining on a jumper by Aaron Brown (19 points, 10 rebounds).
Norvell tied the game with a layup and Meers hit a 3-pointer to give Kent State a 70-67 lead. But Larson retaliated with a 3-pointer of his own to tie the game at 70 with 1:53 remaining.
Norvell hit 1-of-2 free throws to put the Flashes ahead to stay with 1:35 left. After the Chippewas missed a 3-pointer, Kyrem Massey rebounded and was fouled but missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Jon Borovich then missed a shot that could have put CMU on top and Norvell was fouled once again.
This time Norvell made both free throws to give Kent State a 73-70 cushion with 32 seconds left.
The Chippewas had one last chance to send the game into overtime, however, Borovich missed a 3-pointer and Massey rebounded and heaved a pass to Norvell as time expired.
"This is a young team and I'm proud they didn't let down," said Waters. "We held Central Michigan to 37-percent shooting in the first half, but they came back and shot the ball extremely well in the second half. They made some big runs, but we didn't quit."
The Chippewas hit seven 3-pointers and 16-of-29 field goals overall in the second half (55 percent). But the Flashes hit 5-of-9 3-pointers and finished with 10 overall, their most in a single game this season.
Kent State will take on Western Michigan in Kalamazoo at 2 p.m. on Saturday.