Holt shoots KSU past Eastern

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer Published:

By Allen Moff | Staff Writer

Randal Holt is a great shooter. And when great shooters struggle, they know only one thing to do.

Keep firing away.

That shooter's mentality has carried Kent State's senior guard through some difficult times during the 2012-13 campaign. But Holt reaped the rewards for his hard work and persistence on Saturday, when he became the Golden Flashes' career leader in 3-pointers during a desperately-needed 77-62 victory over Eastern Michigan (10-11, 3-4 MAC) at the M.A.C. Center.

Holt buried five 3-pointers to pass Trevor Huffman (1998-2002) on KSU's all-time 3-point list with 211, and wound up with a game-high 17 points and six assists as Kent State (12-9, 3-5) snapped a four-game losing streak overall and three-game skid at home.

Holt broke the record with 11:34 remaining, nailing a bomb off a pass from junior forward Darren Goodson that put Kent State up 51-35. Following the next break Holt's achievement was announced to the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation while teammates gave him hugs.

"I don't think it's hit me yet," said Holt, a former star at Cleveland Glenville High School. "I'm just blessed to be in the situation to even be at Kent State. I've been through a lot of things in my life, and I'm thankful to even be here. To break a milestone that's held up for some years now, that's an amazing feeling. More importantly, it felt good to get the win."

Holt has played in 122 games during his Kent State career, and started for much of the past three seasons. He's a career 35 percent 3-point shooter, canning 211-of-601 attempts.

Although Holt made just 1-of-10 3-pointers in Wednesday's loss at Northern Illinois, he has shot the 3 fairly well this season overall. After Saturday's 5-of-10 effort, he's shooting 35.8 percent from long range. However, Holt's two-point shooting percentage has plummeted after a decent start to the year, and now stands at 31.8 percent on the season.

"He's probably as frustrated as anyone that he hasn't produced the way he would like and the way we all would like," said KSU coach Rob Senderoff. "This is a kid who came off of major knee surgery (after going down during an open gym last June), was out four months, did not practice until November 1st, then played 40 minutes against Drexel (in the season-opener) and hit the game-winner.

"Tonight he did a great job in all aspects of the game. He's just a great shooter."

Holt knew he would get his chances from long range against Eastern Michigan, which plays a zone defense exclusively, so he prepared by doing what he does best.

"When we came back from Northern Illinois, as a team we got up a lot of shots," said Holt. "Then Friday morning Chris Evans and I shot with coach Senderoff. He stresses to me and Chris Evans to just let the game flow and trust our teammates more. We're doing a much better job with that than we were earlier in the season. We're sharing the ball, working together, everybody's out their playing for each other. That's the way it has to be."

Kent State did indeed receive contributions from every player that stepped on the floor. Evans contributed 15 points and a career-high five steals, Goodson added 12 points and three assists, and the bench produced 22 points 20 rebounds with just one turnover.

"We defended well, we rebounded pretty well, we shared the ball pretty well," said Senderoff. "Hopefully it's something we can build on."

The Flashes had chances to bust the game wide open in the first half, but two nagging problems that have plagued them at various times throughout the losing streak surfaced once again.

After a quick 7-0 run culminated by an Evans steal and bust-out dunk gave Kent State a 22-13 lead, the Eagles turned a five-shot possession into three points when junior forward Glenn Bryant converted his team's fourth putback into a three-point play.

After Eastern Michigan trimmed the lead to 22-20 Holt produced his first scoring flurry of the night, burying a jumper and 3-pointer to push the lead back up to 27-20. But a pair of unforced turnovers by Evans helped the Eagles trim the deficit right back to one before a 3-pointer by sophomore Devareaux Manley and a pair of free throws by junior Bryson Pope gave the Flashes a 32-26 halftime cushion.

Kent State opened the second half with another impressive run to seize control, and this time maintained it by playing solid basketball on both ends of the floor the rest of the way.

Goodson opened the second half with a pair of jumpers, then fed Holt for a pair of inside-out 3-pointers to culminate a 10-0 run that pushed the lead to 42-26. The spread stayed in double figures the rest of the way, as the Eagles missed their first eight shots from the floor in the second half and didn't heat up until the game was well out of reach.

"We have not been great at the start of second halves at home," said Senderoff. "We'd been struggling, and if it had gotten tight, our confidence would have been an issue. So the way we started the second half, I thought that was really important for us. It eased some of the tension that would have been there had they started the second half on a run."

Goodson was in the middle of each big run, either making a shot or delivering the inside-out pass to an open shooter that's so critical to success against a zone defense. Like every player on the KSU roster he's suffered through some shaky times this season, but Goodson has now produced 30 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers in his past two games. He's made solid plays, and also avoided silly mistakes that have plagued decent performances in the past.

"Darren't been playing much better," said Senderoff. "He's worked very, very hard. He's going 100 percent in practice at all times now, and it's translated in terms of him having some success."

The Flashes needed a taste of success on Saturday to stop a once promising season from slipping away completely.

"We needed a win for everybody's sake. For our players' sake, for our coaches' sake, for my wife' sake, and for everybody else," said Senderoff. "We're used to winning here, so you get frustrated. But I also understand that I have eight new players and the second-least experience returning in the league. We've just gotta keep working to get better."

Senior guard Derek Thompson scored 17 points off the bench to pace Eastern Michigan. Bryant scored nine points in the first half, but was injured early in the second half and did not return.

FASTBREAK POINTS

n Kent State earned its 17th consecutive victory over Eastern Michigan.

n Freshman forward Chris Ortiz scored his first points in seven games since returning from a broken foot. He finished with five points and four rebounds.

n After failing to grab a rebound in Wednesday's loss at NIU, Evans was shut out once again in the first half against the Eagles. He finished with four boards, lowering his team-leading average to 6.9 per game. "Chris Evans played well tonight and did a lot of good things, but he's gotta get more defensive rebounds for us moving forward," said Senderoff.

n Senderoff, Goodson and Holt each picked Baltimore to win today's Super Bowl. "I'm definitely going with the Baltimore Ravens," said Holt. "I'm just a huge Ray Lewis fan. He's inspirational. He takes his craft very, very seriously. I think he's gonna go out with a bang."

n The Flashes will visit Western Michigan (14-7, 6-2 MAC) on Wednesday.

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