KENT, OHIO – After the Kent State Golden Flashes fell behind to the Ramblers of Loyola University Chicago by 20 points late in the first half, they used three separate runs to close the margin. The hole KSU dug, however, was just too much to overcome. Loyola righted its ship down the stretch and came away with a 69-61 win Saturday night at the MAC Center.
For Kent State (4-2), it was a second consecutive loss at home, as they fell to Yale in the Championship Game of the Men against Breast Cancer Classic Sunday. Meanwhile, Loyola Chicago (4-1) finished a three-game road trip which saw the Ramblers win at Texas-San Antonio while losing at nationally ranked Michigan State.
“You have to make layups; you have to make free throws; and you have to play like we did in the second half. Tonight’s effort was not good enough.” KSU head man Rob Senderoff said.
“We played extremely well in the first half.” Ramblers head man Porter Moser said. “I am proud of our guys taking a punch in the mouth (in the second half). We weathered the storm. The win was big for us in a hard place to play.”
The Ramblers had four players in double figures. Senior Christian Thomas led all scorers in the contest with 16 points, along with seven rebounds a steal, blocked shot, and an assist. Junior Devin Turk added 15, while junior Jeff White came off the bench with 13 and junior Montel James 11.
KSU scored the first basket of the game, a three-pointer from the right corner by senior Deveraux Manley. No one knew it at the time, but that it would be the Flashes only lead of the game as they started digging their hole early by missing 10 of their next 11 shots from the floor.
The visitors from the Missouri Valley Conference took advantage. Thanks to eight points by Turk which included a pair of threes, and four points from Thomas, the Ramblers opened a 15-5 lead at the 11:21 mark.
As the Flashes continued to miss shots, especially close to the rim, Loyola continued to add to their advantage. Their largest lead of the game was 34-14 at the 3:41 mark on two free throws by White, and they went into halftime with an 18-point bulge at 40-22.
The first half statistics showed how Loyola built its lead. They shot over 60 percent from the floor for the majority the first half, finishing the opening period at 57.1 percent (16-of-28). In addition, they had a two-to-one rebounding edge, 22-11, along with a 14-4 lead in points inside the paint and a 15-9 edge on second chance points. Kent State on the other hand, was just 7-of-27 from the field (25.9 percent) 3-of-10 from three-point range.
The Flashes knew they needed a quick start in the second half to get back into the game. That long uphill climb started with a 13-2 run to start the final period, closing the gap to seven points 42-35 on a three-pointer from the top of the circle by Jackson, who during the game passed the 1,000 point mark for his collegiate career. (He played two seasons at Central Michigan before transferring the KSU last season)
The Ramblers responded with an 8-2 spurt to push the lead back out to 11, 50-37, at the 12:22 mark when Turk connected on a three from the right arc.
The Flashes still kept coming and, thanks to some poor shot selection and bad passes by the visitors, scored the next eight points to again close to within five, 50-45.
When Loyola pushed the lead back out to eight, 53-45, on a free throw by sophomore Milton Doyle, the Flashes got five consecutive points from Thomas. The first was a three from right corner and then a layup in transition after a steal to close the deficit to three at 53-50 with 7;11 remaining.
It was be the closest the Flashes would get for the remainder of the game as the visitors from the far north side of Chicago outscored KSU 16-8 in the closing moments, opening an 11-point lead with 17 seconds remaining on two free throws by Turk before winning by eight.
After a horrible shooting first half, KSU found the range in the second stanza, hitting 16-of-32 from the floor (50 percent) including five three-pointers. They outrebounded the Ramblers 21-14 in the second half and had six blocked shots.
“The team that deserved to win did. They played harder than we did.” Senderoff said. “I put that 100 percent on me because we were not ready to play. We have to learn from this and play better.”
One glaring statistic in the game was the Flashes’ inability to make free throws down the stretch, going 2-of-10 from the charity stripe, with virtually all of their misses coming at crucial points in the second half. For the game, KSU was just 7-of-16 from the line.
Loyola cooled off in the second half by shooting 8-of-19 from the floor but finished the game at 52.2 percent (24-of-47). They won the rebound battle, 36-32.
The Ramblers grabbed the victory despite Doyle, their leading scorer in the early going of this season, being held to just nine points. He did, however, have seven rebounds, seven assists and a steal.
When asked about what Doyle does for the team, Moser said “He drew a lot of fouls…he does so much for us.”
KSU returns to action on Saturday as it starts a two-game road trip. The first is to the suburbs north of Atlanta to face Kennesaw State out of the Atlantic Sun Conference.