SACRAMENTO -- The Kent State Golden Flashes saw their 2016-17 season come to an end Friday evening as the UCLA Bruins led from wire-to-wire for a 97-80 victory in the first round of the South Region at the Golden 1 Center.
The loss was just the second in the last 11 game for Kent State (23-12) making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 and the sixth in school history.
"Very proud of our group," Golden Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff said. "We had our chances. We didn't start off the game very well -- down 16-2 -- but battled back. (By) halftime it was an eight-point game. Started the second half off well, but ultimately we didn't get enough stops and they're a very good team."
KSU had four players . . .
UCLA (30-4) had five double-digits scorers. Along with freshman Leaf’s 23, junior Thomas Welsh added 16, while sophomore Aaron Holliday had 15 and 11 assists off the bench. Freshman Lonzo Ball had 15 and senior Issac Hamilton netted 14.
“We were obviously very efficient on offense -- and at times efficient on defense.” Bruins head man Steve Alford said. “We just had some lapses there, especially in the first half.”
KSU eventually found its shooting touch, but the Bruins lead was 16 (43-26) at the 3:42 mark before the Flashes closed the opening period on a 13-4 run to narrow the deficit to only eight at halftime 47-39.
Kent State continued its momentum early into the second half and closed to within four 54-50 on a three-pointer by Jaylin Walker with 16:19 remaining.
That, however, would be as close as the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament champions would get for the rest of the game. Holiday, one of the bext sixth men in all of college basketball, hit a three on the next possession. That pushed the lead back out to 10 and the Bruins maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the way.
UCLA shot a sizzling 62.7 percent from the field for the game (37-of-59). That included 50 percent from three-point range and an 11-for-11 stretch over the final 12 minutes to seal the outcome. KSU shot 43.7 percent from the field (31-of-71) and was just 9-of-22 from beyond the arc.
The Flashes did win the battle of the boards, 36-33. Fifteen caroms came off the offensive glass, and that resulted in 15 second chance points. There were a total of 14 turnovers in the game, however the Flashes’ eight resulted in 14 UCLA points.
When asked about the nationally ranked Bruins, who will face Cincinnati in the second round on Sunday, Senderoff said “They are a good team, a tremendous offensive team.”
► When asked about the season as a whole, Senderoff Said “I could not be more proud of our guys in terms of how hard we fought throughout the entire game (tonight against UCLA) and for the season that we had this year.”
► The loss to UCLA was the last game in a KSU uniform for Hall. The native of Brooklyn, New York, who transferred in from Hofstra University, had an outstanding Flashes career.
Hall made the All-MAC First Ream all three years. In just 98 games, Hall scored 1,683 points -- third all-time -- and pulled down 828 rebounds -- second all time. Hall scored in double digits 90 times and recorded 10 or more rebounds 58 times.
His 20 points and 15 rebounds Friday marked the 23rd time this season that Hall registered a double-double. In addition, he scored 20 or more points 21 times and led KSU in rebounds in 29 games.
Many Flashes fans will remember their recent run through the MAC Tournament to gain the NCAA berth. Hall, as usual was a key part of that journey.