By Allen Moff | Staff Writer
Back-to-back buzzer-beaters at the M.A.C. Center have breathed some life into a struggling Kent State men's basketball squad.
Junior guard Devareaux Manley drained a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from deep in the corner with less than a second left to give the Golden Flashes (13-11, 4-7 Mid-American Conference) a 62-61 come-from-behind victory over Bowling Green (10-14, 4-7) on Wednesday, 11 days after senior forward Darren Goodson beat rival Akron with a banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"I wasn't thinking about (Goodson's shot) at all until afterward, he came up to me and was like, 'welcome to the club,'" said Manley. "It definitely felt great to hit that shot."
Between those two dramatic wins were two disheartening road losses at Central and Eastern Michigan last week that made Manley's game-winner all the more critical.
"I just wanted to come out and get back to playing Kent State basketball," said Manley. "I just wanted to get back to winning."
While Manley (14 points) was the hero, junior guard Derek Jackson did the dirty work all night long to keep the Flashes in contention. Jackson poured in a career-high 25 points, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers, and also turned two steals into crucial layups that fueled comebacks.
Jackson was not in the starting lineup for the first time this season, as Senderoff started four sophomores along with Goodson. The new lineup struggled offensively, as the Flashes missed their first eight shots from the field and trailed 13-0 out of the gate.
Did the benching motivate Jackson?
"Not really," he said. "I just want to win, and if me coming off the bench helps us win then I'm all for it. Coach (Rob Senderoff) told me when you get in the game be aggressive, so I just wanted to be aggressive, coming off the bench or starting. I just want to win."
Manley's shot didn't send everyone home smiling.
Playing in his hometown in front of his family, Bowling Green 6-foot-10 senior center Cameron Black produced likely his best game as a collegian. The former Kent Roosevelt High School star scored a career-high 18 points and posted game-highs with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
"This is where I had my first basketball camps," said Black. "I just wanted to come out and give my best effort and make everybody proud, play my hardest whether I scored or not."
Black entered the contest averaging just 5.9 points per game, but hit 9-of-11 shots from the floor.
"He played his heart out. He was a warrior for us," said BG coach Louis Orr. "He's been a pleasure to coach."
Black himself was nearly the hero.
After Spencer Parker hit two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to put Bowling Green up 61-59, Flashes junior point guard Kris Brewer drove and threw up a runner that was partially blocked by Black. But the Falcons couldn't secure the rebound before the ball went out of bounds, giving Kent State one last chance with three seconds left.
Manley took full advantage. He caught an inbounds pass from Brewer in the corner, turned and drained the game-winner with 0.9 seconds showing on the clock.
"I'm definitely glad that coach called 'C,' cause that's the play for me to come off in the corner," said Manley. "I'm just glad that he called my number and I could respond. I knew I was gonna make it."
Senderoff ran a play to Manley even though he had committed a costly foul on Parker while trying to chase his own 3-point miss just seconds earlier.
"One thing about Dev, and there are a lot of things that I want to kill him about, but he does have a lot of mental toughness," said Senderoff. "With three seconds to go and I don't have a timeout, we have three or four different out of bounds plays quick. (Manley) had been shooting it pretty well. We had another out of bounds play for Derek Jackson that I thought they were sort of on.
"Dev's hit that 3 a number of times in practice, and he's also hit it in games off that call."
Now, the Flashes are hoping Manley's shot will serve as a springboard to a successful stretch run.
"We're just worried about Central Michigan now," said Senderoff, whose Flashes will host the Chippewas (8-15, 1-10) on Saturday. "We just have to continue to improve, and if we win that game and it moves us up the standings a little, then that's great too."
Facebook: Allen Moff, Record-Courier