By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
"Hero Ball" was the term used repeatedly to describe the Kent State men's basketball team's effort during Wednesday's 66-59 loss to Bucknell at the M.A.C. Center.
It's a title that no one heard while the Golden Flashes were reeling off six straight victories at home over a 15-day stretch during their impressive 8-1 start to the 2013-14 season, utilizing their depth to the fullest by playing together and feeding off each other.
But they got away from the things that made them successful against the Bison, and ultimately paid the price as Bucknell (4-4) closed the game with a 13-6 run to defeat Kent State (8-2) for the second consecutive season.
"I thought we tried to do too much what I call hero ball," said KSU coach Rob Senderoff. "Like, I gave up a basket, so I've gotta get it back myself. We just had a lot of guys not play well tonight, all on the same night. Give them credit, they had a lot to do with us not playing well, but some of it is on us too. We got frustrated."
Senior forward Darren Goodson's night basically summed up Kent State's effort. He scored a season-high 18 points, but shot 7-of-17 from the field and had only one assist -- even though his passing is his strength.
"We just couldn't make the right plays and get open shots for other guys," said Goodson. "Like coach said, a lot of guys were out there trying to play hero ball, myself in particular, instead of trying to make a play for a teammate. That ain't the way we play."
"The way we play is drive, drive, kick to the open man. We didn't do that tonight and it caught up with us," Goodson said.
Goodson helped the Flashes survive an early barrage of 3-pointers by sharp-shooting Bucknell, which entered the contest shooting over 43 percent from long range as a team. Senior forward Ben Brackney hit his first four from 3-point land to help the Bison grab a 27-21 edge. Meanwhile, Kent State missed nine of its first 11 3s, but Goodson hit a pair to keep his team close.
The Flashes held Bucknell scoreless for the final 6:17 of the first half, and reserve sophomore guard K.K. Simmons drained a 3-pointer with a 1:04 left to give Kent State a 31-29 halftime lead.
The second half featured runs by both teams, starting with a 6-0 Kent State surge on 3s by Devareaux Manley and Kellon Thomas that gave the home team a 45-38 advantage. Bucknell quickly countered, reeling off 15 straight points to grab its largest lead of the evening at 53-45 with just under nine minutes to go. Reserve sophomore forward Dom Hoffman (6 points) and fellow sub sophomore guard Ryan Frazier (5 points) combined for 11 points during the rally.
Kent State stemmed the tide defensively by switching to a zone, which triggered an 8-0 run. Thomas tied the game at 53-all with a layup at the 5:30 mark.
But Bucknell star senior guard Cameron Ayers, the son of former Ohio State head coach Randy Ayers, who had been held in check by KSU defensive slalwart Derek Jackson, took advantage of the zone by hitting back-to-back 3s to give the Bison a 59-55 lead they would not relinquish.
"They had built an eight-point lead and it seemed like we couldn't get a stop in man, so we went to zone and got a couple stops and tied it. Then that's when (Ayers) hit his 3s," said Senderoff. "Knowing that he made them both I probably should have gotten out of zone, but that's what got us back in the game."
The Flashes still had a chance, trailing 61-57 with 44 seconds left, but junior point guard Kris Brewer tried to force a pass to Goodson instead of taking the ball to the basket through what appeared to be an open lane. The ball was knocked away, the Flashes were forced to foul, and Chris Hass promptly put the game away with a three-point play off the inbound.
"Coach told me to make a play off the ball screen," said Brewer. "I saw (Goodson) roll just a little bit late and I thought I could get it to him but I threw it too high. It was just a bad play by me. Like coach said it was hero ball. I tried it a little bit, some (other) players (did) too."
Brewer finished with 11 points and three assists despite battling through leg soreness after undergoing a pair of offseason knee surgeries. No other KSU player reached double figures, as senior forward Mark Henniger grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds but did not score.
Bucknell made 9-of-20 3s while the Flashes shot just 7-of-28 from beyond the arc. Kent State also shot just eight free throws, making six, while the Bison were 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Senior forward Brian Fitzpatrick led Bucknell with 16 points and five rebounds, while Ayers and Brackney added 12 each.
After playing seven games in the last 18 days, all at home, the Flashes will now have 17 days off before returning to action on Saturday, Dec. 21, at the College of Charleston.
"I think we're tired. It's not an excuse," said Senderoff. "In a way the break is needed for us to get re-energized and get re-focused."
BUCKNELL 66, KENT ST. 59
BUCKNELL (4-4)--Fitzpatrick 6-10 4-6 16, Kaspar 0-3 2-2 2, Hass 3-12 1-1 8, Brackney 4-9 0-0 12, Ayers 3-9 4-4 12, Azzinaro 0-1 0-0 0, Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Starkey 0-0 0-0 0, Frazier 4-5 0-0 10, Oberfeld 0-0 0-0 0, Hoffman 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 23-54 11-13 66.
KENT ST. (8-2)--Henniger 0-3 0-0 0, Goodson 7-17 1-3 18, Manley 2-6 2-2 7, Brewer 5-13 1-1 11, Jackson 3-8 0-0 6, Thomas 2-5 0-0 5, Ortiz 2-4 0-0 5, Simmons 1-4 2-2 5, Spicer 1-2 0-0 2, Tabb 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 6-8 59.
Halftime--Kent St. 31-29. 3-Point Goals--Bucknell 9-20 (Brackney 4-7, Frazier 2-3, Ayers 2-4, Hass 1-5, Azzinaro 0-1), Kent St. 7-28 (Goodson 3-8, Ortiz 1-3, Thomas 1-3, Simmons 1-3, Manley 1-4, Jackson 0-3, Brewer 0-4). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Bucknell 39 (Hass 9), Kent St. 35 (Henniger 12). Assists--Bucknell 14 (Kaspar 7), Kent St. 9 (Brewer, Jackson 3). Total Fouls--Bucknell 11, Kent St. 13. A--2,657.
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