Record-Courier staff report
The Kent State men's basketball has found itself either leading by one or tied with just under two minutes remaining against each of the top three teams in the Mid-American Conference.
The Golden Flashes are now 0-3 in those games.
Western Michigan handed Kent State its latest heartbreaking defeat on Wednesday, scoring the last seven points of the game in the final 1:41 to earn its seventh consecutive victory with an 82-76 triumph over the Flashes at University Arena.
Kent State led 76-75 with 1:59 remaining after sophomore guard Kris Brewer drained a 3-pointer. This was familiar territory for the Flashes, who were tied 63-63 with under two minutes left against Akron (71-67 loss) and led Ohio 66-65 with under two minutes to play (69-68 loss).
"We were right there again," said KSU head coach Rob Senderoff. "We just needed a couple more stops and to execute better at the end. We are getting closer, but we are not there yet. We have got to find a way to get over the hump in these close games."
Kent State (12-11, 3-6 MAC) suffered its fifth loss in six games and third straight road setback, despite getting big performances from several players. Senior guard Chris Evans led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds, while fellow senior guard Randal Holt scored 18 points, burying 4-of-7 3-pointers. Junior forward Darren Goodson continued his recent trend of solid play with 17 points and four boards, while Brewer scored 15 points by draining all four of his 3-point attempts.
The Flashes scored 76 points against the team ranked second in the MAC in scoring defense (62.3 ppg), but still it wasn't enough as Western Michigan (15-7, 7-2) shot 51 percent from the field and hit 27-of-40 free throws to snap a seven-game losing streak against Kent State.
"We had a number of guys play really well," said Senderoff. "We scored 76 points. Ninety times out of 100, scoring 76 points is going to be enough. It wasn't our offense."
Holt buried two 3-pointers as Kent State jumped out to an 8-2 lead, which was extended to as many as 10 in the first half. Evans, who scored 14 first-half points, hit two free throws for a 38-29 edge before Brandon Pokley hit a 3-pointer for WMU to cut the lead to 38-32 at halftime.
The Broncos took their first lead at 55-52 after a 3-pointer by David Brown, who poured in a game-high 22 points in 25 minutes off the bench. But the Flashes bounced right back, taking the lead back up to 68-60 after a pair of Holt free throws with 7:35 to go.
Western Michigan countered with a 6-0 run, then senior forward Nate Hutcheson later buried a well-contested 3-pointer to put his team up 73-72 with 3:03 to play. Brewer countered with a 3, but Brown hit a pair of free throws to put the Broncos ahead to stay at the 1:41 mark.
After an Evans miss, Western Michigan grabbed on offensive rebound on its end and 6-foot-10 junior center Shayne Whittington hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to three.
"We had an eight-point lead late and needed to make a couple of more defensive plays," said Senderoff.
Foul trouble played a role in KSU's late troubles on the defensive end. Evans, Melvin Tabb, Holt, Brewer and Devareaux Manley each finished with four fouls, while Goodson and Mark Henniger fouled out.
"(Foul trouble) makes it harder, but at the end of the day you have to find a way to get stops at the end," said Senderoff.
Whittington finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, while Hutcheson scored seven of his 15 points on three consecutive possessions to give the Broncos the lead for good.
The Flashes will host Central Michigan (9-13, 2-7) on Saturday.