They were too busy wiping the sweat from

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

They were too busy wiping the sweat from their brows.

Because everyone on hand knew the Wolverines had just effectively stolen a gut-wrenching 75-73 victory from the Golden Flashes, who outplayed their Big Ten hosts for the vast majority of the night but made just enough critical errors down the stretch to let a golden opportunity slip away.

"They played well enough to win and just didn't," a relieved Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe readily admitted. "They outplayed us. We were just able to be resilient with the game on the line and make enough plays to win."

Mitchell's miss on the game's final play will be the one most remembered, but that shot was actually the least of Kent coach Gary Waters' concerns afterward.

"He had a good look, and either they fall or they don't," said Waters. "That shot didn't lose us this game, we lost because we didn't execute at critical times. All kinds of things occurred in the final three minutes to create negative situations for us.

"We lost this game ourselves. We did not get beat."

This was indeed a night the Wolverines (6-0) could have been had.

And they would have been had if not for shooting guard Jamal Crawford, the only member of Michigan's highly-touted freshman quartet that actually lived up to his billing.

Crawford poured in a game-high 27 points and single-handedly kept Michigan in contention during some rough stretches.

After a 3-pointer by Trevor Huffman increased Kent's lead to 35-25 with 4:42 remaining in the first half, Crawford reeled off nine straight points to ignite a late run that closed the gap to 40-38 by intermission.

Crawford used his sleek 6-foot-6 frame to shoot over and juke around Kent's helpless defenders virtually at will on his way to a 17-point first half.

"We threw a lot of defenders at him," said Huffman. "He's tough. My hat's off to him."

The Flashes (3-1) seemed to regain control after Huffman, who tossed in a team-high 19 points off the bench, hit back-to-back jumpers to jack the lead back up to 58-50. Shortly thereafter a pair of buckets by sophomore guard Demetric Shaw (15 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals) gave Kent a 67-59 cushion with less than eight minutes to play.

But that's when the pivotal mistakes began to pile up for the Flashes.

Two putbacks and a botched inbounds play by Kent which led to a layup helped Michigan cut the lead to 69-68, then a long 3-pointer by Gavin Groninger tied the game at 71 with 2:33 to play.

After Huffman answered a putback by Michigan forward Leon Jones (16 points, 6 rebounds) with a pair of free throws, Crawford tossed in a runner over Shaw that proved to be the game-winner with 53 seconds left.

The Flashes had three chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute, but couldn't convert.

"We call the last three minutes our time, and we didn't execute during our time tonight," said Shaw. "They wanted to give us this game, but I feel we gave it to them (instead)."

On the game's final play Huffman grabbed a rebound after Michigan center Josh Asselin missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with six seconds left and raced upcourt. He could have drove all the way to the basket but instead flipped a pass to Mitchell, whose open 10-footer was a little long.

"That's a shot I normally hit," said Mitchell. "It just didn't go tonight."

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