Staff and wire reports
MUNCIE, Ind. -- After going down with a thud in its Mid-American Conference season opener, the Kent State men's basketball team went out with a bang in game two.
The Golden Flashes (10-6, 1-1 MAC) recovered from a slow start on Saturday, then withstood a furious second-half charge by host Ball State (7-7, 1-1) to secure a 61-47 road victory that helps ease the pain of Wednesday's disappointing home loss to Toledo.
Kent State led by 18 early in the second half and was up 44-28 with 14:29 to play, but then went scoreless for the next six-and-a-half minutes while the Cardinals closed the gap to 45-44 with 6:55 left. But the Flashes scored the game's next five points, then closed the contest with an 11-1 run as senior Chris Evans drilled a key 3-pointer and a turnaround jumper, while fellow senior Randal Holt drained some key free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"It's hard when you're on the road and an 18-point lead gets cut to one," said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. "That's really where your team's character and makeup show, and our guys did a great job when it got to that point of not giving up, getting some stops, then making some plays offensively. It was a really good win for us, especially coming off a really tough home loss to start the league that was really disappointing for everyone on our roster."
Holt shook off a recent shooting slump to score a game-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, and also dished out four assists. He entered the contest shooting 24.5 percent from the field over his last eight games.
Evans finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists, while junior Bryson Pope came off the bench to grab 10 rebounds for the Flashes.
Evans and Holt, Kent State's top two scorers, both came off the bench as Senderoff tried to send a message after Wednesday's loss to Toledo.
"Those are our main guys. We'll go as far as they'll help us go. But they can't do it themselves," said Senderoff. "As a group of two, they can't do it themselves, and they can't try to do it themselves individually. I think they did a little bit too much of that on Wednesday.
"Today they responded great, they way I expected them to respond."
Kent State held Ball State to just 27.9 percent shooting for the game (17-for-61). The Flashes' defense was at its best late in the first half when a closing 17-0 run allowed the Golden Flashes to take a 35-20 lead into the break after falling behind 7-0 out of the gate. Devareaux Manley led the first-half charge, scoring eight points off the bench.
A three-point play by Melvin Tabb on the first possession of the second half gave the Flashes their largest lead of the day at 38-20 before the Cardinals staged their rally.
"It was just, hey, now's the time. Let's sit down and guard, and rebound," said Senderoff, recalling what was said after Ball State cut the lead to one. "I challenged (Mark Henniger) and (Tabb) a little bit because both of them had given up some offensive boards and some fouls.
"Bryson Pope did a great job on the defensive glass in particular. (Henniger) made a big play where he missed a free throw and came up with a loose ball and called timeout. Chris Evans and Randal Holt made big plays when we needed them. They did the type of things Kent State players do."
Freshman Chris Ortiz played his first game since late November after fracturing a bone in his foot. He was scoreless in 11 minutes, but grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot.
"You could see he was a little anxious," said Senderoff. "He's gotta get himself back in the flow, but it was good to see him out there."
Ball State was led by junior forward Majok Majok, who finished with a double-double on 13 points and 12 rebounds. He struggled from the foul line, however, converting just 7-of-17 free throws. Ball State as a team shot just 33.3 percent from the line (8-for-24).
The Cardinals entered the game having won the past two contests at the buzzer.
"It's a good win, for sure," said Senderoff. "I give our guys a lot of credit for our resilience. I think sometimes we're all a little bit guilty of this, but one loss doesn't make the season and one win doesn't make the season. We have another one on Wednesday, and we've gotta try to stay even keel and get another win."
The Flashes will visit Buffalo on Wednesday.
KENT ST. 61, BALL ST. 47
KENT ST. (10-6)--Morris Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, Tabb 1-4 1-1 3, Goodson 0-4 2-2 2, Pope 0-5 3-5 3, Brewer 2-4 3-4 8, Thomas 1-1 0-0 2, Holt 6-12 2-2 16, Ortiz 0-3 0-0 0, Evans 5-9 3-4 14, Manley 3-4 0-0 8, Henniger 1-1 3-4 5. Totals 19-47 17-22 61.
BALL ST. (7-7)--Bond 5-12 0-3 10, Majok 3-7 7-17 13, Fields 1-2 0-0 2, Scaife 2-13 1-2 6, Berry 3-14 0-0 7, Kamieniecki 0-2 0-2 0, Posley 2-6 0-0 6, Calhoun 0-0 0-0 0, Koch 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 17-61 8-24 47.
Halftime--Kent St. 35-20. 3-Point Goals--Kent St. 6-17 (Manley 2-2, Holt 2-5, Brewer 1-1, Evans 1-4, Goodson 0-1, Pope 0-2, Ortiz 0-2), Ball St. 5-23 (Posley 2-4, Koch 1-3, Scaife 1-7, Berry 1-9). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Kent St. 39 (Pope 10), Ball St. 48 (Majok 12). Assists--Kent St. 12 (Brewer, Holt 4), Ball St. 12 (Berry, Bond, Scaife 3). Total Fouls--Kent St. 20, Ball St. 18. A--3,658.