Flashes spoil McCrea's mastery, strike struggling Bulls
Bulls lose fourth straight, open MAC play 0-3
Junior forward Javon McCrea (12) had a career-high 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds, but the Bulls were unable to pull off their first conference win as they fell to Kent State 80-68 at Alumni Arena Wednesday night. Alexa Strudler /// The Spectrum
The excitement of an intense, hard-fought second half lingered in Alumni Arena after the men's basketball team lost last Saturday. Fans left with equal disappointment after Wednesday night's game.
The Bulls (5-12, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) claimed their first lead of the game at the 10:36 mark in the second half. From that point, the score was tied five times and the lead changed four times. The back-and-forth action the half offered ended shortly after the Bulls took a 66-64 lead with six minutes left, as Kent State (11-6, 2-1 MAC) finished the game on a 16-2 run to defeat the Bulls 80-68.
Junior forward Javon McCrea had arguably his best game in a Bulls uniform. His 33 points were a career high and he exhibited his presence equally on the defensive end, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots.
"I know Kent doesn't like to play defense, so I really try and get a lot of shots up against them," McCrea said.
He shot a perfect 15 for 15 at the foul line and as a team, the Bulls shot 33 for 38. Four Kent State players fouled out as a result of the 55 combined foul calls in the game.
"It was a great performance by him, and he's a great player," said Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff. "[He's] one of the best players to come into this league in a long time. He's a tough matchup for a lot of teams and he was certainly a tough matchup for us tonight."
With nine minutes remaining, McCrea made a lay up to give the Bulls a four-point, 62-58 lead, their largest of the game. His next points didn't come until a pair of free throws with two minutes left, but his seven-minute absence sparked Kent State's 22-6 run to close the game.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon touched on how the Bulls weren't able to come away with a victory, despite McCrea's career performance.
"Our guys battled until the end," Witherspoon said. "Obviously the two areas we struggled in were turnovers and our three-point shooting."
The Bulls committed 20 turnovers - doubling their opponent's output of 10 - and shot 3 for 22 from beyond the arc. They're now 10 for 57 from deep in conference play.
"The turnovers and the shooting are going hand in hand," Witherspoon said. "We're not passing the ball well enough that we're getting the ball consistently to guys in rhythm."
Senior guard Tony Watson is regarded as the team's most consistent three-point threat, but Watson has struggled shooting of late (3 for 22 from three over his past three games). It didn't get any better on Wednesday, as he and starting point guard freshman Jarryn Skeete combined to go 1 for 16 from three-point land (Watson 1 for 12).
Though Skeete struggled from long range, he still managed to chip in nine points, including five crucial points that came in back-to-back possessions to give the Bulls their first lead of the game midway through the second half.
The Bulls were unable to faze the Flashes' leading scorers. Randal Holt tied his career high and led the team with 27 points - 19 of which came in the second half - including 5 for 5 from three-point range and a perfect 8 for 8 at the free throw line. As a team, the Golden Flashes went 9 for 17 from downtown.
The team's leading scorer, forward Chris Evans, came two points shy of a career high with 25 points that were highlighted by multiple high-flying, fast-break dunks and a career-high 14 rebounds.
The Bulls will attempt to win their first conference game at home on Saturday when they host Bowling Green (6-10, 1-2 MAC). Tip is set for 7 p.m.
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