Record-Courier staff report
YPSILANTI, Mich. -- Yet another long-time Kent State men's basketball punching bag finally fought back on Saturday.
Eastern Michigan, which had dropped 17 straight games to the Golden Flashes, broke open a close game with an 18-2 early second-half run and held off a late rally to earn a 70-53 victory at the Convocation Center.
The Eagles (13-10, 5-5 Mid-American Conference) had not defeated KSU at home since 1998, a span of eight games. Saturday's loss also comes three days after host Central Michigan snapped a 12-game skid by defeating Kent State 78-73 in overtime to earn its first MAC win of the season.
The Flashes (12-11, 3-7) have now lost seven MAC games in a season for the first time since 2004-05, and still have eight remaining. At 3-7, Kent State owns its worst mark after 10 conference games since 1994-95.
KSU has now dropped four in a row on the road and six of its last seven overall. The impressive 8-1 start to the 2013-14 campaign now seems like an ancient memory.
"We're just not playing well right now. It's frustrating," said third-year Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. "Confidence, playing together, competing hard, all those things just aren't clicking for this team."
Kent State made five of its first six shots from the floor against the Eagles' MAC-leading defense and trailed just 13-12 after a basket by sophomore forward Khaliq Spicer, (4 points, 4 blocks, 5 rebounds) who started and played 26 minutes despite battling a right wrist injury.
But the Flashes would not score again for 7:34, and Eastern Michigan took advantage of six KSU turnovers during the stretch to mount a 13-0 run that gave the hosts a 25-12 lead.
Junior point guard Kris Brewer scored his only basket of the game to trim the Flashes' deficit to 35-25 at halftime.
Kent State opened the second half with a 7-0 run that featured five straight points by sophomore forward Chris Ortiz, including a three-point play that brought his team within 35-32. But Eastern Michigan immediately countered with an 18-2 blitz that put the game out of reach.
"When we were able to get it down to three they responded with back-to-back transition baskets," said Senderoff. "Our transition defense is not good right now."
A lineup that featured four sophomores brought Kent State within seven at 56-49 with just over five minutes left, but the Eagles pushed it right back up to 10 and coasted to victory.
Junior guard Derek Jackson and senior forward Darren Goodson led Kent State with 11 points each. Jackson added four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Brewer, who was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season, shot 1-of-10 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range for two points with two turnovers and no assists in 23 minutes.
"Kris Brewer has been struggling, and struggled again tonight," said Senderoff. "I wanted to shake things up to get him out of his funk. I'm also trying to make sure to get some guys experience that need to get experience, and I'm trying to reward some of the guys that practice hard every day and will compete hard."
The Eagles were led by Raven Lee and Darrell Combs, who scored 15 points each, while Karrington Ward added 10 points and Da'Shonte Riley pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
After shooting a respectable 45.5 percent from the field in the first half (10-for-22) against the EMU matchup zone defense, the Flashes shoot just 26.7 percent in the final 20 minutes (8-for-30), including 1-of-16 from 3-point range (6.3 percent). For the game, Kent State converted 4-of-26 shots from behind the arc (15.4 percent).
"I'll give them credit for contesting some of our perimeter shots. But when you have wide-open ones you have to make them, and we didn't do that," said Senderoff. "We're a team that has shot a lot of 3s over the course of the season. When we're making them we have a chance to win, and on nights like tonight when we shoot 4-for-26 we aren't going to beat many teams."
Kent State (12-11, 3-7) will host Bowling Green (10-12, 4-5) on Wednesday.