Once again, the Kent State Golden Flashes and Bowling Green Falcons played a squeaker, and for the second straight year, KSU walked out of BGSU's Stroh Center victorious. The Flashes kept sole possession of first place in the MAC's Eastern Division with a 62-59 victory over the Falcons.
The last six games in this series have been decided by a combined 22 points.
The real story of this game, though, was the polar opposite performances of arguably the two key players on the floor; Kent State's Jimmy Hall and Bowling Green's Zack Denny.
Hall dominated from the outset. He scored the game's first two points and did not stop until he finished with 26, one shy of his season high. More importantly, he aided the Flashes by securing season highs with 16 total rebounds and nine on the offensive glass.
His effort helped KSU gather a total of 19 offensive rebounds. That accounted for 41.3 percent of the possible rebound opportunities following shots by the Flashes -- it was an astounding show to watch. Kent State converted those into 21 second-chance points. In fact, they outscored BGSU in that area 21-4. It was arguably the deciding factor of the game.
BGSU's Zack Denny did not fare nearly as well. He was held scoreless for the first time this season. He missed all seven of his shots and played only nine minutes after halftime. Since scoring 15 points in the first half on Tuesday against Toledo, Denny has just four points and no three-pointers in his last three halves of basketball. He did pull down six rebounds, but for a Falcons team that has relied heavily on his contributions, his absence on the scoresheet was too much to overcome.
As a team, the Falcons had an awful first half. They made just six of their 30 shots, including only one of ten from beyond the arc, and they tied a season-low with 19 points in a half. Much (but not all) of it had to do with effective defense by the Flashes, but there's little excuse for a team to shoot that poorly at home. BGSU also committed eight turnovers.
Of course, Kent State didn't exactly light up the scoreboard in the first half, either. They shot just 39.4 percent and had seven turnovers of their own. This allowed BGSU to stay step-for-step with KSU for much of the half, until an 11-0 run by the Flashes gave some separatioin and a 30-19 lead at the break.
Bowling Green was significantly better on offense in the second half, as they made 15 of their 26 shots (57.7 percent). They climbed steadily back into the game, finally tying the score at 51-51 with 5:52 left.
Two possessions during the final 5:52 really hurt and ultimately prevented the Falcons from winning the game. After KSU reclaimed a 53-51 lead, Spencer Parker missed a layup opportunity. Then, they gave up two offensive rebounds to the Flashes before Hall converted a jumper for a 55-51 edge.
A free throw brought BGSU back within 55-52, and they forced a turnover on the next KSU possession. Ismail Ali had a chance to cut the lead to one but lost the ball out of bounds. Two buckets by Hall later, Kent State was up by seven
Despite that, the Falcons had one final opportunity down three points with 0.9 seconds left. They ran an inbound play that got the ball to Denny in the corner, but he was unable to get the shot off in time, as KSU finished a 62-59 win.
For Kent State, Xavier Pollard finished with 12 points, while Khaliq Spicer earned seven points and nine rebounds. BGSU was led by Parker and Wes Alcegaire, who each scored 14. Alcegaire was the only Falcon to make a three; he buried four of them. Denny's six rebounds led Bowling Green.
KSU is now 14-5 overall and 5-1 in the MAC. The Flashes return home to face Eastern Michigan on Tuesday night, then play at Ohio on ESPNU on Friday at 9:00pm. Bowling Green drops to 13-7 overall and 3-3 in the MAC. Three of their next four games are on the road, including tilts next week at Western Michigan on Tuesday and at Central Michigan next Saturday.