Flashes remain atop MAC East

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

HUNTINGTON, W.V. _ Depending on who you ask, the outcome of Sunday night's epic battle for first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division between Kent State and Marshall was decided either on shear guts and determination or a mere lucky bounce.

Whatever.

Bottom line is the Golden Flashes found a way to eke out a monumental 68-65 road triumph in overtime before a near packed house, some 6,239 strong at the Henderson Center, where the Thundering Herd had captured 11 straight contests.

"I think what makes our team special is our toughness, more mental toughness than physical toughness," said Kent State senior forward Kyrem Massey. "We wanted this game so bad. This is the first time I've won here and it feels great. It feels like a 100-pound plate's been lifted off my back."

The Flashes (16-7, 9-3 MAC) did need to catch a huge break at the end of regulation, when senior guard Travis Young blew a short runner in the lane that would have given Marshall (14-7, 8-5 MAC) the victory.

Young also missed the game's final shot, a desperation 3-pointer that grazed the rim as the buzzer blared.

"Our kids went out and fought extremely hard, but they fought just as hard as we did," said Kent State coach Gary Waters. "A bounce here and there decided the winner, and we got 'em. We didn't get 'em last Wednesday against Miami and we lost, but those things come around."

Any and all other good fortune bestowed on the Flashes was well earned.

Struggling centers Rashaun Warren and Mike Perry, neither of whom produced a single point or rebound in that gut-wrenching home loss to the RedHawks, combined for 23 points and 11 boards against Marshall.

"We emphasized going inside to Mike and (Warren)," said Waters. "We've been settling on letting our guards do all the shooting."

Warren hit all six of his field-goal attempts and finished with a team-high 15 points and six rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior who lost the starting center job to Perry last month hadn't reached double figures against a MAC foe this season until Sunday.

"It feels good," said Warren. "I give the credit to our guards for getting me the ball in position to score."

Warren's rebound total was bettered in a big way by junior guard Demetric Shaw (12 rebounds, 12 points) and senior forward Kyrem Massey (10 rebounds, 9 points), who helped a Kent State squad that had lost the battle of the boards in its last four games outrebound Marshall 43-34.

"That was our other emphasis, rebounding," said Waters. "That's all we've talked about since Wednesday. Shaw's just a warrior, and Kyrem played hard every minute of the second half."

Perry produced his eight points and five boards all in the first half, when the effort was needed most.

Andrew Mitchell and Massey, two of Kent State's top three scorers, played just 12 combined minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. But thanks in major part to Warren, Perry and junior point guard Trevor Huffman, who kept the team in tact while Mitchell and Massey were sidelined, the Flashes were able to forge a 33-33 halftime tie.

"I just tried to make sure we got off a good shot at all costs," said Huffman, who played 43 minutes with his bruised left arm heavily bandaged. "The big thing on the road is controlling tempo, especially against a team like Marshall that likes to run. At the very least we were going to make them play defense for 35 seconds every time."

Kent State was able to withstand a second-half scoring drought of over seven minutes by playing its typically tenacious halfcourt defense.

Huffman (12 points, 6 assists) anchored that unit once again by slapping the shackles on Marshall star guard Tamar Slay, whom he held to five points in Kent State's triumph earlier this season. Slay scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field in the rematch.

"They scored almost all of their points in transition," said Huffman. "They didn't score much at all against our set defense."

Scoring was a chore for both teams down the stretch. Baskets by Warren and Herd forward Latece Williams, which tied the game at 59, were the only points scored in the final 2:45 of regulation.

Kent State took the lead for good on a Huffman runner with 1:45 left in overtime, then Slay missed a short jumper with his team trailing 65-63 and 18 seconds remaining.

"I came off a screen and got a good look," said Slay. "Both of my calves were cramped up and I didn't elevate the way I wanted to."

Mitchell, a 79 percent career free-throw shooter who had missed five of his previous 10 attempts, hit 3-of-4 charity tosses down the stretch to give the Flashes a three-point lead that held up.

"(Bad) things are going to happen, especially on the road. It's part of the game," said Mitchell. "What you have to do is stay focused. That's how were able to seal this game."

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E-mail: amoff@recordpub.net

Phone: (330) 678-5460

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Kent State 68, Marshall 65

(At Huntington, W.V.)

KENT STATE

NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP

Shaw 38 4-9 1-3 3-5 12 1 2 12

Massey 32 4-12 1-2 0-0 10 2 2 9

Perry 26 4-7 0-0 0-0 5 4 0 8

Mitchell 29 2-7 0-1 3-5 2 2 1 7

Huffman 43 4-14 2-7 2-2 2 3 6 12

Haut 25 1-2 1-2 0-0 2 1 2 3

Bedford 3 0-1 0-0 2-2 1 0 0 2

Warren 29 6-6 0-0 3-4 6 4 0 15

______________________________________________

Totals 225 25-58 5-15 13-18 43 17 13 68

MARSHALL

NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP

VanHoose 45 8-15 0-0 5-8 13 3 1 21

Williams 34 5-9 0-0 1-3 2 5 1 11

Slay 44 5-14 1-4 5-6 9 1 7 16

Young 45 3-10 0-3 2-2 2 1 4 8

Jackson 39 4-12 0-3 1-2 4 3 1 9

Wright 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Burgess 7 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0

Evans 11 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 4 0 0

_____________________________________________

Totals 225 25-60 1-10 14-21 34 17 14 65

KENT STATE 33 26 9 _ 68

MARSHALL 33 26 6 _ 65

Blocked shots _ Kent State (3): Massey 2, Warren 1; Marshall (2): Slay 1, Evans 1. Turnovers _ Kent State, 16-10. Technical fouls _ None. Attendance _ 6,239.

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