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Kent State scores another road win, advances to NIT quarterfinals

 

 

One week ago, the Kent State Golden Flashes couldn’t have entertained very high hopes that they’d make a deep run in the National Invitation Tournament. Yet, after two trips to distinctively different parts of the United States, they’re one win away from booking a plane flight to the largest city in the country: New York.

Randal Holt oured in 22 points while teammate Carlton Guyton threw down 16 of his own, as the seventh seed in this NIT subregional knocked off the sixth-seeded Fairfield Stags at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Kent State’s balanced attack enabled the regular-season Mid-American Conference champion to power past the champion of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference on Sunday afternoon. As a result, Kent’s kids earned a spot in the NIT quarterfinals. The Golden Flash will continue their criss-cross of the United States on Tuesday night.

Kent State had to fly out to California last Tuesday and play Saint Mary’s in an NIT first-round game. A stunning last-minute rally carried coach Geno Ford’s KSU crew past the second-seeded Gaels and into this round. Fairfield, as the sixth seed, backdoored its way into a home game for this second-rounder as the unexpected higher seed in the matchup. Kent could have stayed in the west if Colorado State had dispatched Fairfield, but the Stags’ own road win forced Kent to make the trek to the Nutmeg State. Now, the road warriors of the NIT must go back to the Western United States. The Golden Flashes, far from their home base in the state of Ohio, will play top seed Colorado on Tuesday night.

 

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This game represents an exhilarating triumph for Kent, but it also stands as a painful setback for Fairfield and coach Ed Cooley. Playing a game at home was an unexpected bonus and a chance for this school to wipe away the taste of a stunning home-court loss to St. Peter’s in the MAAC Tournament semifinals. Instead, the Stags staggered and failed to reach the finish line first.

After struggling manifestly in his previous two games, Fairfield star Derek Needham hit 7 of 11 shots in the first half for 18 points, but he scored only two more points after the break as Fairfield lost steam. Needham couldn’t buy a bucket down the stretch, while Kent’s Justin Greene scored a crucial layup with 1:41 left that put KSU in front by a 68-64 score. Needham fouled on Fordham’s next trip down the floor, and Holt nailed two foul shots with 45 seconds to go to finish off the Stags.

 

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

 

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