Record-Courier staff report
A successful college basketball season hinges on peaking at the right time.
The Kent State men's basketball team seems to be doing just that.
After going 5-2 in the month of February, losing both games in the final minutes, the Golden Flashes opened the campaign's most pivotal month of March with a 78-58 victory over host Miami on Saturday at Millett Hall.
Seniors Chris Evans and Randal Holt combined for 40 points to lead Kent State (17-12, 7-7 MAC), which earned its third victory in a row and fifth in the past six games, snapped a four-game losing streak at Miami (8-19, 3-11) and moved to .500 in the Mid-American Conference for the first time since Jan. 23.
The Flashes also stayed in line to earn the fourth seed for the upcoming MAC Tournament. They can nail down the fourth seed, which receives a bye into the quarterfinals, by winning their final two regular season games at home against Bowling Green (12-17, 6-8) on Tuesday and at Akron (23-5, 13-1) on Friday. They could also clinch the fourth seed with a win over the Falcons and with a loss by Eastern Michigan (14-15, 7-7) in either of its last two games against Central Michigan (9-18, 2-11) and Toledo (13-13, 8-6) and by Buffalo in either of its last two games against Ohio (21-8, 12-2) and Bowling Green.
As the only four-year senior on the Kent State roster, Holt was thrilled to capture his first win at Millett Hall.
"This was a big win for us," said Holt. "The most important thing is it keeps our winning streak alive and keeps us playing better basketball going into the tournament. On a personal level, it was a big win for me because I've had a lot of frustrating games here. It means a lot to get a win here in my senior season. This year was also the first time we beat Cleveland State and the first time we won at Buffalo in my time here at Kent State."
After scoring a career-high 28 points and hitting six 3-pointers in Wednesday's thrilling home victory over the Buffalo Bulls, Holt scored 19 points and buried five more 3s against the RedHawks.
Meanwhile, Evans followed up his game-winning buzzer-beater against Buffalo by piling up a game-high 21 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists at Miami.
Sophomore guard Devareaux Manley scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range for the Flashes, who drained a season-high 13 shots from long range in 26 attempts against Miami.
"That's a big deal for us. When we make 13 3s, we should score a bunch of points," said Senderoff. "We shot the ball well with 13 3s and shooting 83 percent from the foul line (15-of-18). It was great to get a win and get rolling in the month of March."
Sophomore point guard Kris Brewer added eight points and dished out a career-high nine assists.
Kent State led throughout the contest, but had some trouble putting the RedHawks away.
The Flashes jumped out to a 23-17 lead in the first 10 minutes after burying six of their first nine 3s. The lead reached eight in the first half twice, but a three-point play by Miami junior guard Allen Roberts trimmed the advantage to 37-33 at the half.
Miami stayed close by shooting 60 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes (12-of-20). However, the RedHawks cooled off considerably in the second half, clanking away at a 32-percent clip (8-of-25) as Kent State slowly pulled away. The Flashes outscored Miami 41-25 in the final 20 minutes.
An 8-0 run by Kent State culminated by an Evans 3-pointer pushed the lead to 50-38 with 14:10 left. The RedHawks made one last run, trimming the lead to six, but a 7-0 run capped by a steal and one-handed dunk by Evans increased the gap to 57-44 with about 10 minutes remaining. The lead stayed at nine points or more the rest of the way.
"I'm proud of the way we played defense in the second half," said Senderoff.
Will Felder scored 18 points and Jon Harris added 16 for the RedHawks, who lost for the seventh consecutive time and dropped their sixth straight at home.
The RedHawks honored former coach Charlie Coles on Saturday, which was declared Charlie Coles Day. Senderoff, who served as an assistant at Miami under Coles in 1997, actually had Coles speak to his team on Saturday.
"I asked coach Coles to speak to our guys, because he is a legend," said Senderoff. "He bleeds Miami red, but it was nice to have him speak to our guys. It was special to me."
The Golden Flashes will host Bowling Green Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Senior Night at the M.A.C. Center.
KENT STATE 78, MIAMI 58
KENT ST. (17-12)--Evans 7-12 5-5 21, Henniger 1-2 4-5 6, Brewer 2-7 3-4 8, Holt 7-11 0-0 19, Goodson 2-5 0-0 5, Pope 0-3 0-0 0, Thomas 1-1 1-2 3, Ortiz 0-0 0-0 0, Manley 4-5 0-0 12, Brunswick 0-0 0-0 0, Spicer 0-0 0-0 0, Tabb 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 25-48 15-18 78.
MIAMI (OHIO) (8-19)--Felder 7-10 4-4 18, Legarza 1-2 2-2 4, McKnight 2-5 1-2 5, Rollins 1-5 1-4 3, Roberts 2-7 2-3 6, Sewell 1-4 0-0 3, Johnson 1-4 0-0 3, Tadlock 0-0 0-0 0, Sullivan 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 5-6 4-6 16. Totals 20-45 14-21 58.
Halftime--Kent St. 37-33. 3-Point Goals--Kent St. 13-26 (Holt 5-9, Manley 4-5, Evans 2-4, Goodson 1-3, Brewer 1-4, Pope 0-1), Miami (Ohio) 4-8 (Harris 2-3, Johnson 1-1, Sewell 1-2, Sullivan 0-1, Roberts 0-1). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Kent St. 30 (Evans 6), Miami (Ohio) 24 (Legarza, Rollins 6). Assists--Kent St. 14 (Brewer 9), Miami (Ohio) 9 (Rollins 3). Total Fouls--Kent St. 22, Miami (Ohio) 15. A--2,125.