KENT--With incredible play down the stretch from Justin Greene, Rodriquez Sherman, and Carlton Guyton, Kent State topped Akron, 79-68,
in front of 6,237 at the M.A.C. Center on Friday night.
With the win, Kent State claimed the outright regular season Mid-American
Conference championship and the No. 1 seed in next week's conference
tournament. Kent State also became just the second team to win outright MAC
titles in back-to-back seasons since 1963 (Ball State, 1988-90).
"Toughness," stated head basketball coach Geno Ford when asked
what was the key to Kent State's victory over Akron.
Both Kent State (21-10, 12-4 in the Mid-American Conference) and Akron (19-12,
9-7) played solid defense, leading to Kent State shooting 33-percent and Akron
43-percent in the first half.
The presence of Zeke Marshall in the paint helped Akron to build a four-point
lead at the end of the first half.
Akron's lead quickly diminished after Greene took control of the paint,
scoring 8 of Kent State's first 12 second half points to tie the score
at 39 with 14:05 left in the game.
Akron continued to battle, but after Guyton's flashy crossover dunk
gave the Golden Flashes a 44-43 lead with 12:21 left, the momentum stayed in
Kent State's favor. Guyton finished the game with 16 points, 6 rebounds
and 4 assists. With Marshall on the bench in foul trouble, the Zips had trouble
climbing back into the game.
Kent State took advantage of Marshall's absence, outrebounding the Zips,
17-5, in the second half.
"When it mattered they just kind of out-athleted us and out-toughed
us," said Akron head coach Keith Dambrot. "We had trouble guarding
the ball when it mattered and we had trouble rebounding the ball when it mattered.
You have to make plays at crunch time."
With 4:09 remaining in the game, Kent State outscored Akron 9-5, to close
out the Flashes' second win in a row.
"It's better to be the No. 1 seed than the 2. That's pretty
much all it means," Ford said. "There are six or seven teams that
have a legitimate shot. In the tournament you need a little luck. To me the
tournament is always wide open."
Greene led all scorers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, to notch his 11th double-double
of the season. Sherman scored 17 points to go along with five rebounds and
Sherman also becomes the only player in Kent State's history to win
three outright MAC titles in a career.
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