"I am really proud of the way our guys played today," said head coach Rob Senderoff. "Our guys gutted it out and found a way to win against a pretty good team. The way we play, it's never going to be pretty and tonight certainly wasn't. But if you like watching a pitcher's duel in baseball, you'll like watching us because we play hard. North Dakota State played hard, as well, and we made one more play than they did and were able to get a win."
Although their shots were not falling, the Flashes did an excellent job of controlling the glass and won the rebounding battle, 49-37. Jimmy Hall pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to lead the way, and Marquiez Lawrence was terrific with seven rebounds in just 10 minutes off the bench. Khaliq Spicer, Chris Ortiz and Devareaux Manley added six rebounds apiece.
The Flashes led 23-21 at halftime.
Trailing 7-6, a layup by Ortiz started an 11-0 spurt that gave Kent State its largest lead of the opening half at 17-7 with 8:36 to play. Five players contributed to the run, which was capped by a Gary Akbar tip-in of a missed shot.
A slow start to the second half saw the Bison open on a 9-2 run for its largest lead of the game at 30-25 with 16:47 to play. Kent State responded with seven straight to regain the lead, a common trend in a half that featured 10 lead changes.
Derek Jackson aided the KSU cause with huge defensive plays on back-to-back possessions with just over five minutes to play in the first stanza. After picking his man above the top of the key for a fast break, Jackson jumped the passing lane on the next play and coasted in for another layup that gave the Flashes a 48-44 lead. The Bison finished with just four turnovers, but those two led directly to points for the Flashes.
After six straight North Dakota State points, Hall tied the game with a pair of free throws with 1:29 to play. Hall then followed a Kent State stop with a basket to put the Flashes ahead. A driving finish by NDSU's Kory Brown with 18.1 remaining set the stage for Brewer's heroics.
Out of a timeout, Brewer had his man isolated at the top of the circle and drove strong to the basket, drawing a foul with 2.9 on the clock. The Bison called timeout in an attempt to ice the shooter, but Brewer stepped up and calmly sank the first attempt. His second shot missed and went out-of-bounds off Akbar. North Dakota State had one final chance but Brown's shot near halfcourt was short.
Brewer led Kent State with 14 points and shared the game-high with three assists. Manley scored eight points and Hall added seven, failing to score in double figures for just the second time in 10 games this season.
North Dakota State (6-5) received a game-high 15 points from Lawrence Alexander. Dexter Werner added 13 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Kent State advances to the championship game of the Sun Bowl Invitational on Monday night. The Flashes will meet the winner of Sunday night’s UTEP/Alcorn State game at 9 p.m. EST.
(Courtesy of KSU Athletics/MRO Edit)