AKRON--Kent State was unable to contain Akron's 7-0 center, Zeke
down the stretch and dropped the first game of conference play to the rival
Zips, 65-62, at James A. Rhodes Arena on Saturday.
The Golden Flashes led 55-53 with four minutes remaining when Marshall stole
the show, scoring eight consecutive points and playing superb defensively against
Marshall tied the game with a beautiful hook-shot that followed his own offensive
rebound, and later sent the arena into a frenzy with an alley-oop dunk to bring
the Zips' lead to 61-55.
Leading 63-59 with 21.7 seconds to play, however, Marshall reopened the door
by missing two free throws.
Guard Michael Porrini laid down a drop pass to set up freshman power
forward Darius Leonard in rhythm, who nailed a 3-pointer to bring
Kent State within one, 63-62, with 14.7 seconds left.
Darryl Roberts answered with two free throws to extend Akron's lead
to three with 11.2 seconds to play.
Kent State ran a ball-screen for Rodriquez Sherman, who struggled
shooting the ball in the second half but had a team-high 19 points. Akron closed
quickly and forced him to dump it to Porrini in the corner, who had a better
look but missed the shot.
"I thought he made it," Kent State head coach Geno Ford said. "It
was good look. In that situation it's as good a look as we can ask for."
"It hurts," Sherman said, visibly upset. "There are a lot
of hurt people [in that locker room]. We couldn't make shots when we
needed to. We really wanted to win this game."
Kent State had only thee players on the roster who understand what the atmosphere
of an Akron game is like, and it showed early on--the Flashes lost a couple
of loose balls and missed two layups in the first couple minutes.
"It's hard when you're a freshman and you go into this game
when you don't have a concept of the intensity or atmosphere," Ford
said. "In the first half, we had 10 turnovers, they only had two steals--that
is a very telling statistic of how nervous we must have been. I liked our collective
fight for the first time in a long time."
Before the game Ford expressed concern over stifling Akron guard Brett
who recently returned from a team suspension, and his capability of scoring
points in explosive bunches.
After the Golden Flashes opened up a nine-point lead with 12 minutes to play,
McKnight didn't disappoint and scored seven points in 90 seconds.
"McKnight killed us," Ford said. "He posts so many problems.
He created a lot of offense because we were forced to over-help to him. [Akron]
has been really good since he came back. He gives them such an offensive presence."
While the Zips thrived with McKnight back, Kent State is still struggling
on the perimeter without guard Carlton Guyton.
Without Guyton, guards Sherman, Porrini and Randal Holt are all having
to play 36-37 minutes a night.
"We don't have any depth so all these guys are playing extended
minutes. It's too much," Ford said. "Rod had not missed a
shot in the game and in the second half he shot an air-ball--it's just
legs. They've done a great job of fighting through."
Sherman shot a perfect 4-for-4 and 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first
half, but in the second half was 2-for-7 and missed all three 3-point attempts.
Holt also missed all three shots he took in the final eight minutes.
Kent State has dropped three straight games for the first time in two calendar
years, and Greene has found himself in a bit of a rut after shooting just 6-for-18
from the field against James Madison and 4-for-15 against Akron.
Marshall's length proved to be problematic for Greene. Marshall ended
the night with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
"We'll take our chances with Justin against just about anybody," Ford
said. "That's something he's done for us over the course
of a year and a half. He's had a couple of tough shooting games back
to back, but I didn't feel he took any bad shots."
Following an emotional loss, the message that will be displayed from the leaders
on the team was made clear.
"The thing I know about Justin [Greene] is he'll get in the gym
and work. He doesn't sulk, that's not his personality."
"[This is] nothing we can't fix, we just have to get in the gym," Sherman
said. "Just got to get at it in practice, raise our intensity and raise
our toughness. We can't sulk on it because we have another game in a
couple of days."
Sherman finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds and three steals.
Greene scored 10 points to go along with four rebounds. Porrini totaled 12
points, six rebounds and five assists. Holt had one of his better games of
late, scoring 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and stealing two passes.
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