As seniors Chris Evans and Randal Holt go, so goes the Kent State men's basketball team.
For seven games that was a good thing, as the Golden Flashes sprinted off to a solid 5-2 start this season despite fielding a team filled with inexperienced players aside from Evans and Holt. But Kent State's veteran duo has struggled immensely during the last three contests, which have all ended in losses, including Sunday's 62-55 setback at perennial national powerhouse Xavier.
Holt shot just 2-of-17 from the field, while Evans hit just 4-of-18 shots from the floor against the Musketeers. They have now combined to shoot 23 percent from the floor (18-of-77) during Kent State's three-game losing streak.
"Our main guys are struggling," said Flashes coach Rob Senderoff. "It's gonna continue to be tough for us to win when Chris and Randal go 6-for-35 (from the field)."
The loss spoiled a breakout performance by junior college transfer Melvin Tabb. The junior forward connected on 9-of-10 shots from the field and finished with game-highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds while making just his second start for Kent State (5-5).
"Melvin obviously had a great game," said Senderoff. "If you would have told me that Melvin would go for 20 and 14 I would have told you we're probably going to win. I thought we guarded hard, we competed. We did a good job on the glass. I thought we took a step forward defensively today."
But aside from Tabb, the rest of the Flashes shot 22 percent from the field. Kent State hit just 32 percent of its field goals overall (21-of-65) and 16 percent of its 3-pointers (4-of-24), including Holt's 1-of-10 effort from long range.
Despite their shooting struggles, the Flashes actually led 9-0 out of the gate and 20-18 at halftime. The Musketeers, who entered the game shooting 51 percent from the field as a team, shot 21 percent in the opening half (5-of-24).
Xavier (7-2) took its first lead when freshman star Semaj Christon hit a jumper to give his team a 23-22 edge with 16:47 remaining.
A putback by Tabb tied the game at 33 with 11:41 left and forced the Musketeers to call a timeout.
After a tongue-lashing by head coach Chris Mack, who was perturbed by his team's inability to reboubd, Xavier blitzed Kent State with a 12-0 run to take control of the game. A Christon jumper gave the Musketeers a 45-33 lead with 8:49 remaining.
The Flashes made one last run, cutting the deficit to 49-44 after a bucket by Tabb with 4:10 to play. But the Musketeers, who shot 58 percent from the floor in the second half (14-of-24), scored the next six points to effectively put the game away.
Christon finished with 18 points to lead Xavier, while Brad Redford added 14 points, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers.
Evans finished with 10 points and eight rebounds for Kent State. Kris Brewer scored nine points off the bench, and Holt added seven points and four assists.
"We're 5-5, we've lost 3 straight games. That's very, very disappointing," said Senderoff. "But there are a lot of teams that are not gonna win at Xavier. I'm not gonna get too down right now."
Following 11 days off for final exams, Kent State will return to action Dec. 20 against St. Francis (Pa.) at the M.A.C. Center.