KENT, OHIO In a game that showed why college basketball is such a great game, as well why the Mid-American Conference in one of the most balanced conferences in all of Division I, Kent State defeated Western Michigan 74-73 Saturday afternoon before 3,961 fans at the MAC Center.
Rodriguez Shermans driving slam dunk and free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining gave Kent State (14-7, 5-2 MAC) its fourth consecutive win to remain atop the Eastern Division standings as the Flashes battled back from an eight-point deficit late in the second half.
Chris Singletary led the hosts with 24 points, 21 of which came in the second half, and Sherman added 12.
With KSU trailing 58-50 and 6:46 remaining, the Flashes fashioned a 7-0 run to close the deficit to one 58-57 on a Sherman three-pointer from the right corner.
After WMU expanded the lead back to five on two occasions - the last being 69-64 on a David Kool layup with 2:06 remaining - Kent State tied the score 69-69 on a three-point play by Chris Singletary and slam dunk by Anthony Simpson.
In the final moments, Kool put Western Michigan on top 71-69 with two free throws, but Singletary matched it with a driving layup to tie the score 71-71 with 21.3 seconds remaining.
On WMUs next possession, the Broncos worked the clock down until Kool hit a fade-away jumper inside the circle with 7.1 seconds remaining to give the Broncos a 73-71 lead.
After a timeout, Kent State inbounded from underneath its own basket. Singletary passed to Sherman, who took the ball into the front court and then went strong to the basket. He dunked the ball, and was fouled by Lawson with 1.7 seconds remaining. Sherman made the free throw and Kent State regained the lead 74-73.
With no timeouts remaining, the Broncos threw a long pass into the front court. The ball was deflected to forward Martelle McLemore, whose desperation three-pointer at the buzzer missed and Kent State escaped with the victory
We drew up everything but making sure he would dunk the ball. KSU head coach Geno Ford said after the game. But we told Rod (Sherman) go until they stop you, but what a special play he made
Western Michigan (11-8,3-3 MAC) lost for the third time in four games despite a phenomenal game from Kool. The senior guard from Grand Rapids, Michigan scored a career-best 38 points going 12-for-23 from the field and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
Earlier this week in a loss to Akron, Kool became the all-time leading scorer in Western Michigan Basketball history. Saturday was the fifth time this season he scored 30 or more points in a game
He was playing at a high level today. He is good player who had a great game. Ford said. We could not guard him today
No other Bronco scored in double figures, but Nate Hutcheson added nine points.
One of the keys to the game was senior center Donald Lawson, who scored just six points and was in foul trouble virtually the entire game. He finally drew his fifth foul on the Sherman slam.
I told them after the game, I just felt awful for them Broncos head coach Steve Hawkins said afterwards. It was a great battle out there between two great offensive players (Kool and Singletary), and we came up a point short
KSU opened strong and had an 11-2 lead at the 14:37 mark on a Tyree Evans putback. The Broncos then used an 11-2 spurt of their own to tie the game, 13-13, at the 12:28 mark on a Kool jumper off the backboard.
The visitors from Kalamazoo took their first lead of the game 20-18 at the 10:19 mark on a layup by Nate Hutcheson before Kent State used another 11-2 run to regain the lead, 29-22, on two Frank Henry Ala free throws.
After a three-pointer by Kool and a layup by Hutcheson, KSU ran off four consecutive points to take a 33-27 lead before going into halftime with a four-point advantage, 33-29.
Kent State had built its lead by shooting 51.9% from the field and held a 21-15 rebounding edge.
At the start of the second half, Western Michigan regained the lead using a 10-2 run. The second 20 minutes, though, were plagued by fouls, with both teams entering the bonus situation within the first eight minutes.
The Broncos opened an eight-point lead 48-40 with 11:35 remaining on a jumper by Kool and held the lead until the final 1.7 seconds of the contest.
Kent State could get little going offensively through much of the second half and, at one point, was just 3-for-18 from the field. Two things that kept the hosts in the game were their foul shooting and the play of Singletary.
The senior from Chicago scored the first 11 KSU points of the second half and his driving layup with 4:18 remaining pulled the Flashes to within a single point, 63-62, setting the stage for the frantic final moments.
WMU shot a sizzling 60.9% from the field in the second half, and was 14-for-18 from the free throw line while turning the ball over just five times. Kent State however was 16-for-19 from the free throw line in the second half and won the rebound battle 20-12.
We had no inside presence today with Lawson playing just 13 minutes Hawkins said We could not pull down clean rebounds. Our first shot defense was not bad in the second half, but we could not pull down any rebounds.
Both teams are back in action Monday night. Kent State is at home against Northern Illinois, while Western Michigan continues on the road at Buffalo
NOTES: The game was the 109th career meeting between the two schools with Kent State holding a 56-53 advantage. The Flashes have won nine straight in the series at homeKent State has now won 13 consecutive games versus MAC West opposition and 18 straight at home.