Record-Courier staff report
Kent State continues to shoot itself back to respectability in the Mid-American Conference.
The Golden Flashes (14-11, 5-6 MAC) built a commanding 16-point halftime lead by shooting a scorching 65 percent in the first half and coasted to their third win in the past four games, an 87-70 triumph over Miami (8-15, 3-8) on Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.
Senior guard Chris Evans, whose availability was uncertain until just hours before tipoff because of a right ankle injury sustained late in Saturday's win over Central Michigan, played perhaps the best all-around game of his career. Showing absolutely no signs of a gimpy ankle, Evans finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and two assists in just 28 minutes of action.
"The ankle is still a little sore," Evans admitted. "My teammates were joking my ankle should be (injured) every game. I was feeling alright. During the game you don't think about it. It definitely hurts now."
Four starters reached double figures for KSU. Senior guard Randal Holt scored 13 points and dished out five assists, sophomore guard Kris Brewer also scored 13 -- hitting 3-of- 4 from 3-point range -- and added four helpers, while junior forward Mark Henniger added 11 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the floor.
KSU junior swingman Bryson Pope also reached double-digits with 10 points and three steals in 12 very active minutes.
The Flashes wound up shooting 58 percent from the field (33-of-57) and 45.5 percent from 3-point range (10-of-22), with 17 assists on 33 baskets.
The Flashes are now averaging 81.7 points over the past four games. They averaged just 64 points per outing and cracked 70 just once in their first seven league games, shooting 38 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from the 3-point line with 73 assists compared to 103 turnovers. However, in the last four games, Kent State is shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 44.2 percent from 3-point range, with 60 assists to 39 turnovers.
"This was a good team win for us," said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. "I thought we had a number of guys play well, especially offensively. We did a good job moving the ball and did a good job handling their traps and full-court pressure. That allowed us to get some good shots."
Miami's vaunted pressure defense had little impact, forcing just four turnovers in the first half and 10 for the game. In fact it was relentless hustle by the Flashes that pressured the RedHawks into 16 miscues.
"We've won three of four, and I like the way we are playing offensively," said Senderoff, "but we have to guard a little better with these games that are coming up."
Evans scored 13 in the first half, including a statement and-one for the Flashes' first points of the game.
"I'm going to kick him in the ankle tomorrow," said Senderoff. "This was probably his best game of the year. It was certainly his most efficient, considering he did all of those things in 28 minutes, which is a little less than he usually plays."
Kent State made 8-of-13 3-pointers in the first half while pulling away from the RedHawks, including back-to-back 3s by Holt and Brewer during a 12-0 run late in the first half that pushed an eight-point lead to 20.
"That (late first-half run) was very important," said Holt. "It gave us a cushion to play a little bit and breathe a little bit. You don't want every game to be close. We were able to kind of stretch it out a little bit. We kept our intensity up and didn't allow them to get back in the game."
The RedHawks made one mini-run, cutting the deficit to 15 following a 3 by reserve Allen Roberts (team-high 16 points). But Kent State proceeded to methodically pull away, pushing the lead as high as 25 following and Evans dunk.
Roberts scored 16 points off the bench to pace Miami, while Geovonie McKnight had 12 points and four assists and Will Felder chipped in 10 points and five boards.
The Flashes will now head to Athens for a rematch with Ohio on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Bobcats came from behind to defeat Kent State 69-68 in this year's first matchup.