CLEVELAND -- Kent State extended its winning streak to four games while closing its non-conference schedule with a 72-55 road victory over Cleveland State on Wednesday.
Randal Holt and Kris Brewer both scored 17 points to lead the Golden Flashes, who improved their record to 9-5 with the start of Mid-American Conference play waiting next week.
More importantly, a new mantra helped Kent State do a better job of handling the pressure of an opponent mounting a second-half charge. Just like Arkansas State and Fairmont State in the Golden Flashes' previous two games, Cleveland State battled back from a double-digit deficit. Kent State pushed its 10-point lead at the half to 14 in the first minute of the second half, only to watch the Vikings battle back to within just two after a pair of free throws by Tim Kamczyc with 16:05 to play.
A technical foul against Kamczyc less than a minute later seemed to take the steam out of the Vikings, offering the Golden Flashes a chance to turn the momentum. In the next 10 minutes, Kent State rebuilt a lead that reached as high as 20 points.
"We've had a theme during the last week where we've talked a lot about the difference between 211 degrees and 212 degrees," said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. "At 211, water is just hot. But if you turn it up just that one degree to 212 it creates the steam that can move a steamboat or a railroad.
"Tonight, when things got tight, we stepped it up that one degree and that made all the difference."
Free-throw shooting played a big part in the Kent State win. Brewer was a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line while Holt made all six of his foul shots. As a team, the Flashes shot 76 percent (19-for-25) while Cleveland State struggled to just 42 percent (12-for-25).
"You don't miss 13 free throws and turn the ball over 17 times and think you are going to win a game," said Cleveland State Gary Waters, whose team fell to 8-6.
Brewer provided a big defensive spark for Kent State, helping to hold Vikings sophomore Charlie Lee to just four points on 1-for-8 shooting. The Cleveland State point guard also committed five of his team's 17 turnovers.
"Brewer's defense was a huge key for us," said Senderoff. "He really guarded a very good player in Charlie Lee, and by doing that he really helped our team."
Chris Evans added 11 points and nine rebounds. Another eight rebounds by both Holt and Melvin Tabb helped Kent State win the rebounding battle 35-27.
Kent State tallied assists on 17 of its 23 baskets with a team-high six coming from Tabb in the post.
"We got contributions from everyone who stepped on the floor," said Senderoff. "This was a very good win for our program. It was our last chance to play before the conference schedule starts so it was good to go into league play with a road win against a very good team and a team that is very well-coached."
Kent State hosts Toledo on Jan. 9 in the MAC opener for both schools.
Wednesday's win ended a three-game winning streak for Cleveland State in the regional rivalry.
KENT ST. 72, CLEVELAND ST. 55
KENT ST. (9-5) -- Evans 4-10 3-5 11, Tabb 2-2 2-4 6, Brewer 4-6 8-8 17, Holt 4-12 6-6 17, Goodson 4-7 0-0 9, Pope 3-7 0-2 7, Thomas 1-3 0-0 2, Manley 1-1 0-0 3, Henniger 0-0 0-0 0, Spicer 0-0 0-0 0, Morris Jr. 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-48 19-25 72.
CLEVELAND ST. (8-6) --Long 4-4 1-7 9, Mason 3-8 0-1 7, Kamczyc 4-9 1-1 10, Douglas 2-6 1-2 5, Lee 1-8 2-4 4, Ivory 0-1 0-0 0, Forbes 3-7 4-4 12, Lomomba 2-4 3-6 8, Ndaye 0-1 0-0 0, Scales 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-48 12-25 55.
Halftime--Kent St. 39-29. 3-Point Goals--Kent St. 7-16 (Holt 3-6, Goodson 1-1, Manley 1-1, Pope 1-2, Brewer 1-3, Evans 0-3), Cleveland St. 5-12 (Forbes 2-4, Lomomba 1-1, Mason 1-2, Kamczyc 1-3, Ivory 0-1, Lee 0-1). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Kent St. 35 (Evans 9), Cleveland St. 27 (Mason 8). Assists--Kent St. 17 (Tabb 6), Cleveland St. 9 (Lee 4). Total Fouls--Kent St. 18, Cleveland St. 19. Technical--Kamczyc. A--2,847.