Two teams that were more similar than appeared on paper entered the MAC Center Saturday night with northeast Ohio bragging rights on the line. Both teams lacked a star player one player, but feature a lot of good players and solid depth off the bench that will keep them around late in games. Both teams had grinded out the majority of their games to the wire. The only real difference between Cleveland State and Kent State heading into Sunday night's matchup had been that the Flashes had been winning those close contests.
This was not the case Saturday night. As anticipated both teams went back and forth in the first half with neither gaining a sizeable advantage on the other. The Flashes had a one point lead going into the last possession of the first half and Bryn Forbes drilled a three to give the Vikings a two point lead going into the half.
Like the first half, the second half was a back and forth battle until the Vikings went on a 14-4 run that put them up 11 with 4:38 to go. Kent State would battle back with 8 straight points sparked by a Darren Goodson three. Two K.K Simmons free throws brought the Flashes within three of the Vikings but that would be as close as they would get as the Vikings rolled along to win it 78-70 and hand the Flashes their second home loss of the year.
The Vikings had four starters in double figures led by Bryn Forbes who added 14 points to the cause. Sebastian Douglas also added 14 points off the bench for Cleveland State. Kent State were led by Derek Jackson who had 18 points followed by Mark Henniger and Darren Goodson who both had 14. Kris Brewer and Dev Manley had quiet nights adding only 9 combined points and the Flashes combined for only 15 bench points. The Flashes crushed the Vikings on the offensive boards with over twice as many offensive rebounds at the Vikings but Kent State simply could not slow down Cleveland State as the Vikings shot 54% from the field and 50% from the arch.
Kent State fans that have really followed this team the last two years should not some seriously disturbing trends in this game. The first was very obvious. If the Flashes don't get production off the bench, it will be difficult for them to be competitive in the MAC. This is a team that lost two stars in Randall Holt and Chris Evans and it is yet to be seen if Derek Jackson is the type of leader that can take over a game like those two and win the close ones. The Flashes shot 40% from the field for the game but shot only 34% in the second half and a measly 25% from three-point land. The Flashes also missed 10 free throws on the night continuing the woes from the stripe. That's simply not acceptable.
The second trend is Rob Senderoff's use of the big man. Darren Goodson struggled mightily from the field. Goodson, who has been very good at times, has a tendency to force bad shots late and chuck up perimeter shots he has no business taking. It cost the Flashes dearly last night. However Goodson can only take these shots if he is on the floor. Khaliq Spicer who seemed to be coming into his element, was essentially left to rot on the bench tonight. Spicer played only four minutes total in the game. If the Flashes plan on contending with the bigger sized teams in the MAC, such as Akron, Senderoff will have to find playing time for 6'9 Spicer, because a 6'5 Goodson will not be able to handle big forwards all year like Demetrius Treadwell.