KENT, OHIO – The Kent State Golden Flashes suffered their first loss of the 2014-15 season as the Yale Bulldogs came back from a 12-point first half deficit to down KSU, 66-59, in the championship game of the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic Sunday afternoon at the MAC Center.
Yale hit 12-of-18 from the field in the second half, and sank four free throws in the closing moments for the victory.
Kent State (4-1) was off to their best start since 2002-03 and posted victories over Southern Illinois from the Missouri Valley Conference and Illinois-Chicago of the Horizon League to reach the title tilt.
“It was a tough game for us.” head coach Rob Senderoff said. “They are a more experienced team, and they made enough plays down the stretch. Give them credit.”
Yale (4-1) has won four straight games after losing its season opener to Quinnipiac at the Connecticut 6 Classic. They came to Northeast Ohio, defeating SIU and UIC as well en route to the title game.
“We went through a lot of adversity in the game.” Bulldogs head man James Jones said. “We hung tough, stayed together, and really defended and rebounded well especially in the second half.”
Junior guard Jack Montague led five Yale players in double figures with 13 points, while junior Justin Sears and senior Matt Townsend each added 12. Sears, the tournament’s most valuable player, added nine rebounds, four assists, a steal, and three blocked shots.
The Flashes led throughout the first half, using a 13-1 run to open their largest lead of the game, 22-9, at the 9:10 mark on a layup by Hall, He had 12 points in the opening 20 minutes as he has scored in double figures in each of KSU’s first five games.
The Ivy League visitors chipped away at the deficit, closing to within six points on three occasions, the last being 30-24 with 7.9 seconds remaining in the half on two free throws by Montague. However, Kent State got the final points of the period on a layup by senior Devereaux Manley just before the buzzer, making the score 32-24 at intermission.
As in the first two games of this event, KSU shot the ball well. The Flashes built their lead by hitting 12-of-23 from the field (56.5%) while holding a narrow 14-13 rebounding edge. The defense held Yale to just 7-of-20 from the floor (35%) and limited Sears to just two points on a layup in the lane at the 14:18 mark.
The second half would be an entirely different story.
Yale opened the second half with a 12-4 spurt to tie the game, 36-36, at the 16:13 mark on a jumper by Montague. The key to the run, which led to a shift in momentum, was a pair of three-pointers -- one each by seniors Armani Cotton and Javier Duren. The Bulldogs then picked up their first lead of the game 39-38 at the 13:10 mark when Sears made one-of-two free throws.
“I think we were tight in the first half; then we calmed down and started to play, and we played well.” Jones said.
The lead then see-sawed before the visitors opened a four-point advantage 48-44 on a left wing jumper by Townsend, who missed the first two games of the tournament. He would score 10 of his points in the second 20 minutes.
When asked about Townsend, Jones said, “We missed him (the last two games) he is a leader on our team, our best defensive player. It’s nice to get him back. We needed him and he was spectacular.”
The lead went back and forth before Townsend’s layup with 48.7seconds remaining put Yale on top for good, 60-59. The Bulldogs sealed their first ever win over KSU with six straight free throws four by Sears and two by Makai Martin, opening their largest lead of the game at the final buzzer.
Sears had 10 points and seven boards in the second half. Jones said of him, “He is our defensive presence. He blocks shots, changes shots, gets the big rebounds for us. He got other guys involved, which was big for us.”
Yale simply shot lights out in the second half, going 12-of-18 from the floor (66.7%) and 15-of-19 from the free throw line. It also dominated the glass by the tone of 17-8 in the second half and 30-22 overall.
The Flashes went just 9-of-25 from the floor in the second period (36%) finishing the game at 45.9% (22-of-48).they forced the Elis into 15 turnovers converting them into 20 points. However, the Yale bench outscored KSU 20-15.
When asked about his team’s performance in the second half, Senderoff said , “We had a number of opportunities that we squandered. The defense to start the half was not what it wants to be, as well as our guard play was not where it has to be.”
Joining Sears and Hall on the all-tournament team were Montague, Southern Illinois’ Anthony Beane and Jack Weigand of Illinois-Chicago.
KSU gets back into action on Saturday as it completes the five-game home stand with a matchup against the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers.