Late Rally Lifts Kent State Past Iona 73-72 In Season Opener
Golden Flashes overcome six-point deficit in the final two minutes
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Down 70-64 with two minutes remaining, the Kent State men's basketball team rallied for a 73-72 win over Iona in the first game of the World Vision Classic hosted by Cleveland State at the Wolstein Center. Junior forward Justin Greene (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) led the Golden Flashes (1-0) with 25 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 1.9 seconds remaining.
Kent State returned only two starters from last year's Mid-American Conference Championship team, but Greene and senior guard Rodriquez Sherman (Indianapolis, Ind./Ben Davis) lived up to their billing as the duo combined for 46 points. Greene, who also added 14 rebounds, becomes the first Kent State player since 2001 (Antonio Gates) to have a double-double in the season opener. His 26 points are also the most in a season opener since before the 2000-01 season. Sherman meanwhile chipped in a career high 20 points, including six in the final five minutes of play.
"Late in the game Rod (Sherman) made all the plays we needed him to when we were down and every time we went inside to Justin (Greene) good things happened," said Head Coach Geno Ford, who is a perfect 3-0 in season openers at Kent State. "The most encouraging thing we got out of today was the fight and poise we showed when we were down six in the final two minutes."
The Golden Flashes led throughout the majority of the first half, but the Gales built up momentum by forcing 12 turnovers in the second half. Iona then took its largest lead of the game with three minutes left to go when Jermel Jenkins buried one of his three, three-pointers in the game for a 70-64 lead. Kent State missed a pair of free throws on its next possession, but regained life when Mike Golver, who scored a team high 16 for Iona, missed two free throws of his own on the other end of the floor.
"I told Rod with two minutes left I needed him to step up and he told me 'No big fella I need you', so we just worked together to get it done," said Greene
Sherman responded on the other end with an old-fashioned three-point play and then following a Gael turnover assisted on a dunk by Greene to pull the Golden Flashes to within one (70-69) with 1:34 still on the clock. Glover scored inside to move the margin back to three, but junior Carlton Guyton (Chicago, Ill. / Mineral Area J.C. [Mo.]) hit perhaps the game's biggest shot. Playing in his first game in a Kent State uniform, Guyton nailed a three-pointer from the left wing off another Sherman assist to tie the game at 72-72 with 53 seconds remaining. He would finish the night with 14 points, a team high six assists and two blocked shots.
After Greene came up with a huge blocked shot (one of his three in the game) and rebound, Kent State called time-out to set up one last shot. Sherman drove the lane and found Greene in the post where he was fouled with 1.9 seconds left. An 80 percent free throw shooter last year and having already made 3-3 at the line, the 6-8 forward calm hit the first before an intentional miss on the second left Iona with only a desperation three from beyond half court that fell well short at the buzzer.
"We acted like a very immature and young time at times with some of the turnovers we committed, but they way the guys handled them self coming out of the late game huddles was something a veteran team does," said Ford. "We weren't over there trying to settle them down, they were very calm and confident. All we had to do was tell them what we were running and what defense to be in once we got back out there."
Kent State shot 51.9 percent for the game and out rebound Iona 38-30. The Gaels had five players in double figures while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. Sherman capped off his career night shooting 6-9 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. Junior Michael Porrini (Massillon, Ohio/Gulf Coast C.C. [Fla.]) who was limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble had five assists and made four of the Golden Flashes' 11 steals.
Kent State is back in action tomorrow when they face Bryant at 3:30 pm on the second day for the World Vision Classic. The Golden Flashes, which also play Cleveland State on Sunday, will open their home slate on November 16 against Robert Morris at 8:00 a.m. For tickets to Kent State home games call 330-672-2244.