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November 16, 2010

Holt shakes slump in Flashes win

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KENT--Playing in its fourth game in five days and without senior guard Rodriquez Sherman, Kent State came from behind to defeat Robert Morris, 62-59, in an 8:00 a.m. home opener as a part of ESPN’s third annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

Struggling sharpshooter Randal Holt, who in his first three games shot just 1-of-11 from 3-point range and 3-for-24 overall, nailed a 3-pointer with 29 seconds left to give Kent State a 60-57 lead.

“It rolled straight to me and I just shot it,” Holt said. “I didn’t have time to react--I just caught the ball and let it go. I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.”

Head coach Geno Ford said on Saturday, when Holt was just 1-for-10 from the floor, he had confidence in the sophomore despite his shooting woes and that he would break out sometime this week.

He was right.

“Randal is in a unique role--he’s our best shooter who isn’t shooting well,” Ford said. “[If you’re a shooter], you have to have a carefree swagger. We can’t have him be gun shy. I told him, ‘I don’t care if you miss 10 in a row--keep shooting.’ He’s the guy we want to pull the trigger in that situation.”

Hitting a big shot could be just what Holt needed to snap out of his early season slump.

“It is definitely a confidence builder,” Holt said. “I give a lot of credit to my assistant coaches and [assistant coach] Jordan Mincy for staying in my area and letting me know that I’m still a shooter and shooters just keep shooting.”

Holt finished the game with 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting from behind the arc.

After digging a 12-point hole in the first half, as it appeared the quick five-day push had caught up to them, the Golden Flashes (3-1) quickly fired back to open the second half, going on an 11-2 run behind big-men Justin Manns and Justin Greene, who both were almost non-factors in the first 20 minutes, but turned the tide in the final 20.

Manns played only six minutes in the first half but came through in the second with six points, five rebounds and three monster blocks that led to fast breaks.

Greene was denied the ball early in the game and was often doubled-teamed, but he said he eventually wore Robert Morris’ forwards down.

“[Robert Morris] worked a little harder in the first half,” Greene said. “They probably got a little tired in the second half and I was able to get good position.”

Guard Michael Porrini made only one shot and turned the ball over five times, but he made sure his lone basket counted as he and Kent State finally caught up with Robert Morris with 7:51 left to tie the game at 48.

Porrini struggled, but so too did all of Kent State’s perimeter players in the absence of Sherman. Aside from Porrini, Carlton Guyton, Eric Gaines and Holt all turned the ball over three times.

Gaines, however, contributed off the stat sheet.

“We only had one guy show up [in the first half],” Ford said. “[Gaines] was terrific. He didn’t have stats but he was flying all over.”

On Gaines, Holt added, “He gave us a lift and brought a lot of energy and hustle plays. He did the little things to help us.”

Greene, who totaled 20 points and 12 rebounds, also said the 12-point hole at halftime would have been 20 without Gaines’ contributions of six points, four rebounds, two steals and a block.

Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole thought Kent State played harder in the final minutes, and said it always seems that the team hustling has the ball bounce its way more often than not.

“The team that’s playing the hardest gets those bounces,” Toole said. “The team that’s flying around, diving on the floor, taking charges, that has the energy--all of a sudden the ball bounces, and it somehow always seems to go into the (hands of the) team that’s playing the hardest.”

Ford admitted the Flashes weren’t without a little luck.

“We were little fortunate in the second half because even though our energy picked up, they missed a lot of open jumpers that would have turned the flow of the game.”

That being said, anytime he can win while without his lone senior and when the team shoots 37-percent and turns the ball over 15 times, he’ll take it any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Sherman missed Tuesday’s game with concussion-like symptoms resulting from a knee-to-head collision from Saturday night, but should be back for this Friday night’s game against Furman.

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