At tournament time, it must be nice to be able to put the ball in the hands of the Mid-American Conference’ Player of the Year. That’s exactly what Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff did, as the third-seeded Golden Flashes beat the fourth-seeded Ohio Bobcats by a score of 67-61 on Friday evening to advance to the MAC Championship Game.
It was an odd game in many respects. The Bobcats went the first four minutes of the game without scoring, and then had yet another seven-minute stretch of the first half that was scoreless. Despite that, however, the Bobcats were only down 31-23 at the half. Scoreless for an 11+ minute stretch of the first half and you’re only down eight points? How does that happen?
The entire game, it felt like Kent State was running Ohio out of the arena, yet the Bobcats always stayed within shouting distance. An Andrew Garcia three-pointer gave the Flashes their biggest lead of game, 52-37 with 8:43 to play. It appeared Kent State would finally put the Bobcats away at that point, but Ohio began to chip away at the lead again after finding their shooting stroke in the second half. A couple of three-pointers from Mark Sears and a Ben Vander Plas dunk had Ohio back to within 58-53 with under four minutes to play.
Another Sears three-pointer made it even closer, putting the score at 58-56 with 2:56 to play. Kent State’s Malique Jacobs hit back-to-back baskets to push the lead out again to 62-56 with 1:49 to go to give KSU some breathing room— and allow MAC player of the year Sincere Carry to have a say in deciding the game. He hit a big three pointer and two clutch free throws down the stretch to enable the Flashes to hold off the Bobcats for the win.
Carry finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Jacobs led the Flashes in all categories with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Jacobs was a blistering 9-13 from the field. Ohio was led in scoring by Vander Plas with 20 points and added six rebounds. Sears finished with 18 points, and Jason Carter added 10.
Kent State improves to 23-9 on the season. Ohio drops to 24-9 and will wait to see where it will be playing in the postseason.