Huffman dominated play on both ends of the floor, pouring in a game-high 22 points while slapping the shackles on UC Irvine All-American guard Jerry Green, to lead the preseason Mid-American Conference favorite Golden Flashes to a 75-64 victory in the tourney's fifth-place game.
Sports Illustrated, which featured Huffman and ranked Kent State 15th in its 2001-02 college basketball preview issue, had to be proud of Sunday's effort.
"That's probably our best performance yet," said first-year Kent State coach Stan Heath. "We controlled a team that had a lot of success last year and has a lot of guys back. It was a great team effort. We're still trying to find ourselves, but this is definitely a step in the right direction."
Green, who earned Big West player of the year honors last winter while guiding the Anteaters to a 25-5 record and to the regular-season league crown, entered Sunday's contest averaging 25 points per game this season. But Huffman and senior backcourt mate Andrew Mitchell held him to 14 points, including just two in the first half when Kent State raced to a 12-point lead.
"Trevor played a very good floor game all-around, but the best part of his game was his defense," said Heath. "He did a good job of staying in front of (Green) and keeping him from penetrating. And when he did penetrate, our other guys were in position to step in and take away his drives."
The Flashes (3-1) took charge by outscoring UC Irvine (3-2) 13-3 in the final five minutes of the first half. Huffman scored eight points during the run, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that put Kent State on top 37-25.
After trailing by as many as 17 points in the second half, the Anteaters cut the deficit to 52-44 with 8:25 to play. But Huffman drained two short jumpers to ignite an 8-0 run, and UC Irvine never seriously threatened again.
Huffman finished with 22 points, three rebounds and three assists to pace the Flashes, while Mitchell contributed 12 points and four assists and junior forward Antonio Gates added 11 points and a game-high seven rebounds.
John Edwards, Kent State's 7-foot sophomore center who had struggled in previous outings this year, produced eight points and four rebounds in 22 minutes before fouling out while battling a pair of UC Irvine 7-footers.
"John did a nice job of clogging up the middle defensively," said Heath. "We've been talking about being a better team overall defensively, and we made progress in that area."
Heath was pleased with how his Flashes responded by earning back-to-back wins at the University Hoops Classic after letting one slip away Friday against Hofstra.
"We'd have liked to have won the tournament, but we grew a lot after Friday," said Heath. "The biggest thing is that we're going to have to win three games in a row in our conference tournament, and this gives us an idea of what that'll be like. We treated this game like a championship game, and our guys responded."
The Flashes will now prepare for a much-anticipated battle with national powerhouse Kentucky (2-1), ranked 10th in the country, Wednesday night in Cincinnati.