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Kent State vs Eastern Michigan recap: Kent flashes past the Eagles

Once again, EMU ran out to a big first-half lead, only to see it evaporate.

Chris Ortiz led all scorers tonight with 19 points.
Chris Ortiz led all scorers tonight with 19 points.
Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight was familiar -- all too familiar -- for EMU fans. Once again the Eagles built a sizeable first-half lead and once again they saw it evaporate in mere minutes.

Early in the game, EMU was simply dominant. They seemed to be everywhere on defense, executing Rob Murphy's version of a full-court press collapsing into a 2-3 zone as well as I've ever seen. On offense, it seemed like almost every shot found the net. (In truth the Eagles were shooting about 50 percent, but compared to what they sometimes manage, that might as well be every shot.) Karrington Ward led the team with 10 points after just 12 minutes of play. And the rebounding -- oh! the rebounding! Eastern Michigan built a 16-point lead, and it was beautiful, and all was right with the world.

And then Gary Akbar, whose stat line of five points and five rebounds for the game doesn't look all that impressive, scored all five of those points, and grabbed two of those rebounds, within 81 seconds. With a Derek Jackson three-pointer in the middle of it (Jackson's first points of the game), it took a game that was starting to get out of hand and pulled it back well within the Golden Flashes reach. Also, it energized what turned out to be a fairly raucous crowd that had been fairly quiet until then.

EMU answered, and went to halftime up 10, but the damage had been done. EMU was shaken, Kent State's confidence was restored, and the crowd was alive. Moments after the first media timeout of the second half, Kent State took the lead. Although Eastern Michigan was only down one point with 1:19 remaining, the Golden Flashes made their free throws to stretch it to a nine-point lead, before Mike Talley sank a meaningless three-pointer at the buzzer for a final score of 65-59.

With the loss, the Eagles fall to 0-3 in conference play, a stunning turn after their 11-2 non-conference record. EMU will return to Ypsilanti to host Northern Illinois this Saturday. Meanwhile the Golden Flashes are 2-1 and stay in Kent to host Ohio this Saturday night.

Game Leaders

Player HOME AWAY
Points Chris Ortiz (19) Mike Talley (16)
Rebounds Jimmy Hall (9) Karrington Ward (8)
Assists Kris Brewer (4) Ethan Alvano, Mike Talley (4)
Blocks Jimmy Hall (2) Karrington Ward (2)
Steals Kris Brewer, Chris Ortiz, Gary Akbar, Marquiez Lawrence, Derek Jackson (1) Mike Talley (4)