One of the most anticipated rematches of the MAC regular season lived up to its billing as Kent State escaped Toledo with a 76-75 overtime win in a wild finish.
Kris Brewer hit a go-ahead free throw with two seconds left in overtime and the Golden Flashes prevented Toledo from getting a final shot attempt to escape Savage Arena with a victory Friday.
Toledo trailed for almost the entire second half of a game that never saw a lead larger than seven points. The Rockets nearly capped a furious last-minute comeback at the end of regulation, going on a 5-1 run in the final 10 seconds of play, but reserve guard Stuckey Mosley's missed free throw after a game-tying layup and foul just before the buzzer prevented Toledo from stealing a regulation win.
The game's opening seemed to reward its high expectations, as the squads traded leads frantically in a tightly-contested first half. Neither team led by more than three points during the contest's first 19 minutes before Kent State finished the frame on a 6-0 run to lead 36-32 at the break.
Derek Jackson's 12 first-half points led all scorers in a first half that saw the Golden Flashes nail 52 percent of their shots, and only J.D. Weatherspoon joined him in double figures in the first. The Rockets forward went 4-for-4 from the field in the opening half and added five boards in the process.
Kent State seemed to carry its momentum into the second half, going ahead by as many as seven in the early going, but Toledo battled back to tie the game at 46 with a Nathan Boothe three-pointer with 11 minutes left.
From that point on, Kent State heated up from beyond the three-point line, once more opening a seven-point lead with seven to play. However, with the Golden Flashes seeming to pull away for good, once more the host Rockets rallied to edge within two at the five-minute mark.
The see-saw theme continued, as Jackson stayed hot while the Rockets got colder. Shortly, the Golden Flashes were ahead by five once more, and at the free-throw line with just under three minutes left thanks to a key Jackson three and Toledo's failure to rain outside shots.
A missed foul shot by Devareaux Manley and a subsequent Justin Drummond three allowed the hosts to slingshot back into one-possession territory in the next 30 seconds.
A Kris Brewer jumper gave Kent State a four-point lead at the 2:15 mark, and Toledo's chances of a comeback win dwindled heavily in the ensuing sequence. Julius Brown had a layup blocked by Jackson, and the Flashes ate over a minute of clock thanks to a pair of offensive rebounds, leading to an opportunity to go ahead by six at the charity stripe. However, Brewer missed the front half of the one-and-one (his fourth miss in four free-throw tries), and Drummond drained a pair of foul shots to pull within two ahead of the final 40 seconds.
Kent State's continued free-throw struggles left the door cracked open for the hosts when Manley headed to the line up two with 36 seconds left but missed one of his two shots, but a miscommunication on the ensuing Toledo possession led to a turnover. Manley hit his next two free throws, appearing to essentially seal the road win for the Flashes with 21 seconds left.
Weatherspoon gave Toledo one more shred of hope and a two-point deficit when he was fouled on a made layup and completed a three-point play with 11 seconds to play, but Manley buried two more foul shots to make it 66-62. Immediately after, Brown, who had been relatively quiet for the Rockets to that point, sank a three with nine seconds to come within one. Manley hit one-of-two free throws after the intentional foul, leaving 5.8 seconds for Toledo to score two points.
Mosley, on the court due to Drummond fouling out, nearly gave Toledo its first lead of the second half, driving down the lane to sink a layup just before the buzzer, earning a free throw in the process. Mosley's attempt, however, rattled off the rim and backboard, ending regulation in a 67-all tie.
The Rockets got off on the right foot in overtime, earning their first lead in 23 minutes of game time when Boothe put his squad ahead with a layup on the extra frame's first possession. True to the rest of the contest, neither team had any ability to pull away during overtime, leading to a Brewer layup delivering a 75-73 Kent State lead with 38 seconds left in added time.
A pair of Weatherspoon free throws gave Kent State the ball with a 75-75 tie with 31 seconds left and the shot clock turned off. Brewer earned a pair of free throws with only 2.1 seconds on the clock when officials ruled Mosley got a piece of him on a blocked shot, and Brewer drained the second to put the Flashes up 76-75.
Zach Garber flung the resulting inbounds pass to Boothe, but Kent State deflected it out of bounds with one second left. Mosley was unable to get the final inbound attempt past late substitute and 7-foot-4 center Blake Vedder and Kent State was able to cling to its 76-75 road victory.
Brewer, Jackson and Manley each stepped up for the Golden Flashes in particular in the absence of leading scorer Jimmy Hall, who missed the contest due to a battle with mononucleosis. Brewer led all scorers with 21 points, Jackson added 20 and Manley chipped in 17.
Drummond, Weatherspoon, Boothe and Brown each hit double-figure scoring for the home team, with the former three each snagging double-figure rebounds as well. Drummond's 17 topped Toledo in scoring, and Boothe's 15 points and 14 rebounds earned him his first career double-double.
The result moved both teams to an even 8-4 in MAC play, with the Kent State's 17-8 record a tick above Toledo's 16-9. Crucially, the win guaranteed a season sweep for the Golden Flashes in the two-game series (owing to a 67-60 Jan. 21 triumph in Kent), which could be a valuable trump card in conference tournament seeding.
Kent State next returns home Wednesday to battle Ball State while the Rockets must prepare for a road trip to MAC East contender Akron Wednesday.
|K. Brewer (21)
|J. Drummond (17)
|Khaliq Spicer (12)
|N. Boothe (14)
|K. Brewer (3)
|N. Boothe (6)
|K. Spicer (3)
|N. Boothe (4)
|D. Manley (3)
|N. Boothe (2)