Flashes slip by Broncos

By Allen Moff Record-Courier staff writer Published:

Precious few nightmares end on a happy note. But the Kent State men's basketball players lived through one such bizarre experience on Saturday afternoon, when they survived a stiff scare from Western Michigan to claim a thrilling 75-72 triumph at the M.A.C. Center. The Broncos (9-8, 2-4 Mid-American Conference) drilled 12-of-19 3-pointers and led nearly wire-to-wire. But the resilient Golden Flashes (12-5, 5-1 MAC) shook off the onslaught and eked out a victory thanks to Andrew Mitchell's tiebreaking 12-foot jumper and a pair of clutch free throws by junior forward Antonio Gates down the stretch. "We knew we were in for a fight, and boy did we get one," said Kent State coach Stan Heath. "We didn't play our best, but I give Western a lot of credit because they really came in here hungry. We're just thrilled to get out of that with a win. For us to find a way to win and not play up to the level we know we can is encouraging." Gates, who poured in a career-high 27 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, and Mitchell (18 points, 6 assists, 5 boards) roused the atypically lethargic Flashes, who withstood a 35-point barrage by Broncos senior Steve Reynolds and a sub-par performance by senior guard Trevor Huffman to remain atop the MAC East Division leaderboard along with Ohio. "This was a real tough day for us, but the one thing we did was stick with it," said Mitchell. "Every team's going to have games where you just don't play like yourselves. You just have to stay focused and keep fighting." Mitchell was the only Kent State player that seemed to have any fight in him early on. The Flashes committed several ugly turnovers and bricked six of their first seven shots while Western Michigan sprinted to a 12-3 lead before Mitchell buried three consecutive 3-pointers to give his team a desperately needed jump-start. "One thing I always try to do is lift up my teammates when they're not having a good day," said Mitchell. "I always try to raise our energy level." Mitchell's energy was never harnessed by Huffman, who failed to find any sort of rhythm offensively. Kent State's leading scorer (16.1 ppg) scored a season-low six points, missed all six of his 3-point attempts, and twice barely drew iron from the free-throw line _ where the 87 percent charity tosser shot just 2-of-5. "Trevor kept telling me this is your day, Drew. You need to carry us," said Mitchell. "I've had bad days too, and he's come through for me." While Huffman couldn't throw it in the ocean, Reynolds couldn't miss. The 6-foot-7 forward buried 8-of-10 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 35 points, the most scored on Kent State since Ohio's Dave Jamerson poured in 52 points in a KSU victory on Feb. 24, 1990. Reynolds drilled his first seven bombs from long range, several of which came at crucial times when the Flashes were trying to make a run. "He had some good looks, but he also made some real tough shots," said Heath. "You have to give that kid credit. We tried to make some adjustments, but nothing really worked." After Kent State took its first lead since 2-0 on a putback by Gates, Reynolds immediately answered with his eighth 3-pointer to give Western Michigan a 66-64 advantage with 3:45 remaining. The two teams then exchanged scores until Mitchell drained a 15-footer to put the Flashes up 72-70 with 51 seconds to play. Reynolds then missed a 3-pointer while guarded tightly by KSU senior Demetric Shaw but rebounded his own miss. His putback failed, but Broncos center Anthony Kann grabbed the rebound and got off another shot from close range that rimmed out before Gates grabbed the rebound in heavy traffic and was fouled. "I can't even tell you what was going on in there during that play," said Gates. "It was a war." Gates, who scored 16 of his 27 points in the second half, swished both free throws to give Kent State a 74-70 cushion with nine seconds left. The Broncos had one last chance to tie in the closing seconds, but freshman Ben Reed's desperation 3-pointer missed badly as time expired. __ E-mail: amoff@recordpub.net Phone: (330) 678-5460 ______ Kent State 75, Western Michigan 72 (At M.A.C. Center) WESTERN MICHIGAN (9-8, 2-4 MAC) NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP Slater 12 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 0 2 Reynolds 36 13-22 8-10 1-1 6 2 1 35 Kann 29 2-7 0-0 2-3 9 4 2 6 Collum 38 3-9 1-4 1-2 4 2 8 8 Reed 35 6-13 1-3 0-0 4 1 0 13 Bro 15 0-0 0-0 0-0 2 2 0 0 Willis 27 3-4 2-2 0-0 1 3 3 8 Berry 8 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 _____________________________________________ Totals 200 28-59 12-19 4-6 30 16 14 72 KENT STATE (12-5, 5-1 MAC) NAME MIN FG 3-PT FT RB PF A TP Thomas 18 1-5 0-1 0-0 3 0 0 2 Gates 38 11-17 0-1 5-7 10 1 3 27 Gerwig 6 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0 Mitchell 35 5-13 3-5 5-6 5 3 6 18 Huffman 30 2-9 0-6 2-5 2 1 4 6 Shaw 25 3-5 1-2 0-1 6 2 1 7 Haut 15 2-2 2-2 0-0 2 0 0 6 Bedford 15 2-3 1-2 0-0 3 1 1 5 Edwards 18 2-2 0-0 0-0 2 1 0 4 _____________________________________________ Totals 200 28-56 7-19 12-19 35 10 15 75 W. MICHIGAN 36 36 _ 72 KENT STATE 33 42 _ 75 Blocked Shots _ W. Michigan (1): Collum; Kent State (2): Edwards 2. Turnovers _ Kent State, 10-9. Technical fouls _ None. Officials _ Steven Skiles, Mike Foote, Bill Kaminski. Attendance _ 4,213.

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