Kent State defeated Ball State, 79-68, on Friday in the semifinals of the 2011 Mid-American Conference tournament and will advance to the play rival Akron in the finals on Saturday.
Here's a look at the five keys to the Flashes' win over the Cardinals:
1. Pounding the Boards
Kent State outrebounded the Cardinals, 40-22. Forward Justin Greene grabbed 12 boards, guard Michael Porrini finished the night with nine and forward Justin Manns totaled eight. Someone in gold came up with nearly every 50-50 loose ball as time wound down.
"Down the stretch rebounding is key and that's always what will win the game," Greene said. "I just wanted to make sure anytime a shot went up I got a body on somebody and got a rebound. Everybody was rebounding."
2. Porrini sparks the offense
Porrini continues to look smoother and smoother in the Flashes offense. He made three laser passes into the paint that led to easy baskets and garnered some appreciation from both crowds.
His biggest contribution--another flashy pass to a cutting Rodriquez Sherman with six minutes left that gave KSU a three-point lead--was the beginning of Kent State's final run that proved to be the difference.
"I was just trying to create and at the last second his man turned his head and Rod cut back door and I saw him," Porrini said. "I give him all the credit too. Rod's been playing great. He's played great all year long but the last couple games he's played tremendous."
3. Chemistry Lab
Defensively, Kent State has had to play two of the better big men in the conference this weekend in Buffalo's Javon McCrea and Ball State's Jarron Jones. Offensively, the team has played as smoothly as they have all year.
They're gelling at the right time.
"This is a goofy team in the sense that when we started the year, we were painful to watch," head coach Geno Ford said. "Our body language wasn't very good and our effort was just OK. Somewhere around January we started to get a chemistry and a feel about us that we didn't have earlier in the year. To try and pinpoint one day, I can't do that. We went from a team that was difficult to watch play to a team that really players pretty well together."
4. Manns on Fire
Manns struggled mightily against Buffalo but showed up with a heightened energy Friday night. He scored 10 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes. Aside from the usual outputs of Greene, Porrini, Sherman and Carlton Guyton, anything Manns can contribute is icing on the cake.
5. Greene plays his game
Greene again competed against one of the better forwards in the conference in Jones. Greene scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting and brought down 12 rebounds. Jones scored 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go along with his 11 rebounds.
More important than his production, Greene hasn't become caught up in one-on-one battles and continues to play his own game in Kent State's offense. It's not fair, but his 20-point, 12-rebound night almost looks mundane. Tomorrow night, he'll match-up with Akron's 7-foot center, Zeke Marshall. Greene is earning every bit of his postseason accolades.
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