Kent State 90, Texas-El Paso 80

Associated Press Published:

EL PASO, Tex. _ If there's a better sixth man in the country than Trevor Huffman, Kent State coach Gary Waters will have to see him to believe it.

The Golden Flashes sophomore guard came off the bench to pour in a career-high 26 points, including 10 in the final 2:37 that gave Kent a thrilling come-from-behind 90-80 victory over host Texas El-Paso in the championship game of the Sierra Providence Sun Classic late Wednesday night.

Huffman hit two free throws to break a 78-all tie and put the Flashes (8-1) on top for good with 2:37 remaining in the game, then added a 3-pointer, a three-point play and two free throws that increased the lead to 88-80 in the closing seconds.

Fittingly, Kent's super-sub was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"I've convinced Trevor that he can be the best sixth man in the country if he plays up to his abilities," said Waters, whose Flashes captured the school's first regular-season tournament title in 10 years.

Huffman and company overcame some major obstacles to knock off red-hot Texas El-Paso (8-3), which had a five-game winning streak and 10,134 fans on its side.

The Miners seemed ready to thoroughly embarrass the Flashes early on after they reeled off 16 straight points to open the contest.

"We knew coming into the game we'd have to withstand their storm of emotion, then we could get back into the flow of the game," said Waters. "I've told the team all along to have faith. Even when we were down 16-0, they went out there and believed."

Kent went on an 8-0 run to get back in the game, then chipped away at the lead until a jumper by Nate Meers tied it at 25.

But the Miners regained the momentum and forged in front 44-39 by halftime thanks mostly to a 16-of-23 effort from the free-throw line. Five Flashes had picked up two fouls by halftime including Huffman, who scored 14 first-half points.

John Whorton, who produced just one point in the first 20 minutes, broke out of a recent scoring slump early in the second half. Kent's senior center tossed in 13 points early in the second half to help his team trim the lead to 65-64.

Later a sudden outburst by Meers (13 points) put Kent out front, as the former Stow High School star drained a jumper and two 3-pointers to give the Flashes a 78-73 lead with 3:54 remaining.

"Nate stepped up and hit some big shots in the second half," said Waters.

The Miners quickly tied the game following a basket by forward William Smith, who finished with a team-high 23 points and 10 rebounds.

But at that point, Huffman and the Flashes took over.

"We wanted to get the game into the last four minutes, because then we knew we could execute and control the game," said Waters. "We did that."

Huffman hit 4-of-4 3-pointers and 10-of-11 free throws while scoring 26 points in just 19 foul-plagued minutes. Overall Kent hit 9-of-14 3-pointers, while the Miners shot 1-of-13 from long range.

Demetric Shaw tossed in 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds from his guard spot for Kent, while Kyrem Massey snared a game-high 11 rebounds and Whorton added 14 points to earn all-tournament team honors.

After winning 8-of-9 games to open the season for the second straight year and third time in school history, the Flashes will begin Mid-American Conference play Sunday night at 7 p.m. when they visit defending East Division champion Miami.

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Sierra Providence Sun Classic Championship

Kent State 90, Texas-El Paso 80

(At El Paso, Tex.)

KENT STATE

NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP

Thomas 16 1-4 0-0 0-0 6 3 0 2

Massey 26 3-10 0-0 1-1 11 3 1 7

Whorton 28 5-11 0-0 4-6 4 3 1 14

Shaw 37 4-8 1-1 5-5 10 2 2 14

Mitchell 33 1-8 1-2 3-4 2 3 4 6

Huffman 19 6-8 4-4 10-11 0 3 1 26

Vaughn 10 3-4 0-0 0-0 1 3 1 6

Meers 21 5-9 3-7 0-0 2 2 1 13

Warren 5 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 2

Perry 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 0

______________________________________________

Totals 200 29-64 9-14 23-27 39 25 11 90

TEXAS-EL PASO

NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP

Smallwood 26 3-9 0-2 2-6 2 3 2 8

Smith 38 8-12 0-0 7-8 10 4 5 23

Wolfram 40 8-15 0-1 6-7 5 3 1 22

Mullahon 34 0-4 0-4 2-2 5 1 2 2

McRae 25 4-7 0-0 5-6 6 5 4 13

Nelson 16 1-5 1-4 0-0 4 3 0 3

Luces 8 2-4 0-1 1-1 1 0 1 5

Escobedo 13 1-4 0-1 2-7 4 2 0 4

_____________________________________________

Totals 200 27-60 1-13 25-37 39 21 15 80

KENT STATE 39 51 _ 90

TEXAS-EL PASO 44 36 _ 80

Blocked shots _ Kent State (3): Massey 1, Whorton 1, Vaughn 1; Texas-El Paso (3): Smallwood 1, Wolfram 1, Mullahon 1. Turnovers _ Texas-El Paso, 14-11. Technical fouls _ None. Attendance _ 10,134.

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