Kent State Rallies For 62-59 Win Over Robert Morris In The Home Opener
The Golden Flashes awaken in the second half to erase a 12-point halftime deficit
KENT, Ohio – The 8:00 a.m. start time might have been a little too early for the Kent State basketball team, but once they awoke in the second half the Golden Flashes would not be denied as the team rallied for a 62-59 win over visiting Robert Morris. Playing its 2010-11 home opener, Kent State erased a 12-point half time deficit to improve to 3-1 on the year. As part of ESPN's third annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, the game was broadcast in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience.
Junior forward Justin Greene (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) helped fuel the second half rally scoring 11 of his game high 20 points. Greene also added 12 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Sophomore Randal Holt (Cleveland, Ohio/Bedford) who hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 29 seconds left was also in double figures with 12 points.
Playing their fifth game in five days, the Golden Flashes were sluggish in the first half shooting just 30 percent (7-23) from the field as they fell behind by 12-points (35-23) at the break.
"As much as the start time was a factor, the four games in five days was a major factor," said Head Coach Geno Ford. "We didn't have great legs and Robert Morris is as good and quick as any team we'll face all year."
The second half was a different story as Kent State cranked up the defensive pressure and forced Robert Morris (1-1) into a 1-14 shooting slump the first seven minutes of the period. The Golden Flashes meanwhile began to click offensively as junior Carlton Guyton (Chicago, Ill. / Mineral Area J.C. [Mo.]) hit a three-pointer to capped off 13-2 stretch that brought his team back to within one (37-36) at the 13 minute mark. The Colonials finally ended the drought with a three from Anthony Meyers before gaining a six-point, 48-42 advantage with nine minutes remaining.
After playing only six minutes with virtually no stats in the first half junior center Justin Manns (Winston-Salem, N.C./Owens C.C. [Ohio]) became a major factor in the second. In the final 20 minutes of play Manns scored all six of his points while grabbing five rebounds and making three blocks. Perhaps his biggest offensive play was a tip-in and foul shot that cut the deficit back down to three (48-45) at the nine minute mark. Junior guard Michael Porrini (Massillon, Ohio/Gulf Coast C.C. [Fla.]) then followed with a three-pointer, (his only field goal of the game), which knotted the score at 48-48 with 7:51 on the clock.
Two inside baskets by Greene and a three from Holt surrounded three Colonial free throws as Kent State took a four point lead under the two minute mark. Following a big defensive stop by the Golden Flashes, Holt was whistled for a technical which set Karon Abraham up for a free throw and a three-pointer at 1:29 that tied the game for the seventh time. After the teams traded baskets the next two possessions, Holt delivered the go ahead three for Kent State with just 29 seconds remaining.
"At the tournament at Cleveland State, I was going through little bit of a shooting slump," said Holt. "I wanted to get into the gym last night and put as many shots up as I could. Today it paid off. I just shot the ball with confidence and watched it go in."
In the final 20 seconds Greene and freshman Robert Johnson (Cleveland, Ohio / Bedford) each split a pair at the foul line leaving the Colonials with only an off-balanced desperation shot from 24-feet at the buzzer that bounced off the rim.
Kent State shot 38 percent for the game compared to 33 percent for Robert Morris.
The Golden Flashes return to action at home against Furman on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.. For tickets information call 330-672-2244.
NOTES: The Golden Flashes have now won 10 straight at home dating back to last season ... Kent State is 6-0 all-time when Randal Holt scores in double figures ... Robert Morris shot just 24.3 percent (10-41) in the second half ... Greene has eight career double-doubles
Kent State-Robert Morris Postgame Quotes
Kent State Head Coach Geno Ford
"As much as the start time was a factor, the four games in five days was a major factor. We didn't have great legs Robert Morris is as good as any team we'll face all year. We were a little fortunate in the second half. Although our energy level picked way up, we missed a lot of open jumpers that would have turned the flow of the game. In the first half, we only had one guy show up, and that was (freshman guard) Eric Gaines. He was terrific. He didn't really have a bunch of stats, but he was flying all over. Fortunately, we were able to ratchet up our energy level in the second half and get on the class. That was probably what turned it, as much as anything."
On young team learning through growing pains:
"You look around and there are times when we have three freshmen out there, and we need them to play. It's part of the learning process. The good thing about this one is that we beat a really good team. They're going to win a bunch of games, and you'll see them in March at the NCAA Tournament."
On presence of Kent State's student section:
"The student section really lifted us in the second half. Those kids were great. They stood and yelled and were into it. We had no momentum in the first half, but once we got it in the second half it felt like we were just going to find a way to win. The students were fantastic, and we're going to need them. To have a chance to win a championship, you have to go undefeated at home. You cannot get beat in your home gym, and our student section is as significant a part of our winning percentage as anything we do here."
On Kent State sophomore guard Randal Holt working through shooting struggles:
"There's quote by an ABA guy that said, 'You've got to shoot it up and sleep in the streets.' You have to have a little carefree swagger to you. We can't have him be gun shy. I told him, 'I don't care if you miss 10 in a row. You've got to keep pulling it.' He made the shot that won the game for us, and he's the guy we'd most like to have pull the trigger for us in that situation."
Kent State Junior Forward Justin Greene
On difference between first and second half:
"They fronted me a lot in the first half. They probably got a little tired trying to bang in there with me in the second half. I was able to get good position and finally get my shots up."
On playing in a game with an 8 a.m. tipoff:
"I was watching one of the games last year saying, 'What are they doing playing at 9 a.m. on TV? They must be crazy.' Now, a year later, we're on TV. We got up early to do what we love to do, and that's play basketball."
On importance of playing on ESPN:
"It's good for us to have TV games and win them. Nobody wants to be on TV and lose by 40. It's good to be on TV and win games."
Kent State Sophomore Guard Randal Holt
On finding energy in the midst of playing four games in five days:
"We had to find energy within ourselves. (Freshman guard) Eric Gaines gave us a lift, bringing a lot of energy and a lot of hustle. He did the little things that kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win in the second half."
On knocking down the three-point shot that gave Kent State the lead for good:
"At the tournament at Cleveland State, I felt like I was going through little bit of a shooting slump. I wanted to get into the gym last night and put as many shots up as I could. Today it paid off. I just shot it with confidence and watched it go in."
Robert Morris Head Coach Andrew Toole
"I'm not sure we truly believed how hard the second half was going to be and that we needed to play an entire 20 minutes. After Kent State came out the way they did and punched us in the first five minutes of the half, it's hard to turn it back up and say, 'OK, now we're going to play harder.' We talked to these guys about how this day was going to work and that we need their full efforts from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. We got from about 5:30 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m. We needed an extra hour, and we didn't get that, unfortunately."
On defending Kent State junior forward Justin Greene:
"We lost some of our defensive details. We did a very good job on him in the first half. Kent State did a better job of moving the basketball in the second half, and it got our guys a little bit out of position."
On Robert Morris not hitting shots in second half:
"We took 40 shots in the second half, and I thought 36 or 37 were pretty good ones. I'd say about 25 of them were great ones. It's just disappointing that you can't knock them down."
Robert Morris Senior Guard Gary Wallace
"We have practices at 8 a.m., so we've been prepared to play early. This my first time playing a real game this early, so it's a little different. The coaches did a good job of preparing us."
On shots not falling in the second half:
"We were all getting great looks; I don't think we could get any better shots. We just didn't knock them down. When we went cold, we let it effect us on the opposite end."
Robert Morris Redshirt Sophomore Forward Russell Johnson
On momentum shifting in favor of Kent State in the second half:
"We stopped doing what we did in the first half -- help defense, rebounding, boxing out -- and they just took advantage of it.
Robert Morris Sophomore Guard Karon Abraham
On defending Kent State junior forward Justin Greene:
"I played terrible in the second half. I didn't do what I did in the first half. I didn't do little things on defense. I'll be watching film to see what I didn't do in the second half. I let my team down."