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Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders CIT Final: Flashes move on with strong first half performance

The Flashes have yet to learn their opponent for the second round.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After bowing out of the MAC Tournament after one game - a loss to rival Akron - Kent State could have packed it in and given up on their season. The Flashes traveled to Murfreesboro, Tennessee Wednesday night to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who were 57-7 at home over the last four seasons.

That home record didn't phase Kent State, as they used a 14-2 run to close out the first half and did enough in the second to pick up the 68-56 road victory. The Flashes last reached the second round of the CIT two years ago, when they last made the postseason.

Middle Tennessee held a small lead for most of the first fifteen minutes of the game until the Flashes started to turn it on. A Jimmy Hall jumped with 5:24 left on the clock gave Kent State a 26-24 lead, which was their first lead since the 12-minute mark.

Darnell Harris scored the next three points for the Blue Raiders,  but the Flashes answered with an 11-0 run with five coming from Derek Jackson and four from Gary Akbar. Kris Brewer closed the half out with a three-pointer, and the Flashes took a 40-29 lead into halftime.

The hot shooting continued in the second half as every time Middle Tennessee tried to go on a run Kent State answered. The closest they got to sniffing the lead was a seven-point deficit with 10:41 left in the contest after a DeVante Jones three.

Over the next eight minutes, the Flashes went on an 14-6 run to bring their lead to 15 at 68-53 and effectively put the game completely out of reach. Marcus Tarrance made a three-pointer with thirty seconds left to end a six-minute scoring drought that took the Blue Raiders out of the game.

The Blue Raiders only had two players in double figures - Jacquez Rozier and Perrin Buford who both finished with ten points. Middle Tennessee couldn't handle Kent State's pressure defense, coughing up the ball eleven times.

Kent State was led by who else but Hall, scoring 20 points on 9-14 shooting from the field and eight rebounds. Jackson followed up Hall with 16 of his own, and Brewer had 12 points and six assists off of the bench. The Flashes shot 44 percent from the field and 73 percent from the free throw line, much better than Middle Tennessee's 36 percent and 56 percent in the same categories.

The Flashes will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent in the next round of the CIT. Rumors are that they'll head to Texas to face either Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or Sam Houston State - both of which would be challenging match-ups. Nothing is final yet, but either way the Flashes are going to have a tough task ahead of them.