Kent State's game this Saturday night was a strange experience at times, although hosting an above-the-Red Line opponent in UAB is becoming more ordinary than one might think. In the previous two seasons, South Florida, Tulsa and these same Blazers made trips to the M.A.C. Center, and the Flashes beat all three of them.
But this particular UAB squad, the reigning Conference USA regular season champs and recipient of a First Four berth, had an opportunity to take Kent State by surprise if the Flashes took their 1-5 record lightly. Kent State sometimes struggles against teams with height, and UAB's best player is 6'10" senior forward Cameron Moore.
The awkwardness began during the starting lineup announcements, when the typical "let's get fired up" highlights began to play... and the sound wasn't working. A freaky silence ensued for a good half-minute, and the crowd of 3,624 was more confused than it was fired up. It was a rough day for the M.A.C. Center scoreboard staff - after the game's second timeout, an announcement for a free pizza giveaway caused another distraction as it continued long after the Flashes had inbounded the ball.
Nobody seemed immune to the mistakes. The two teams finished with 22 turnovers each, including an abnormally high number of traveling violations. After one official made an egregious foul call on Flashes guard Michael Porrini late in the first half, he responded with a nearly-as-bad make-up call on Blazers guard Quincy Taylor two seconds later that caused head coach Mike Davis to lose his temper and earn a technical foul.
Ultimately, UAB was first to find its groove, and a 12-2 run in the first half put them on top 22-11. By this point, Moore, Taylor, Preston Purifoy and Robert Williams had each made a crucial superhoop, while Kent State suffered four missed shots and five turnovers during the Blazers' six-minute run.
The Flashes recovered with help from #omgdunx by Patrick Jackson and Chris Evans and closed its deficit to 28-24 at halftime. Luckily for them, weird as the game may have started, one thing was all too familiar: Kent State is a second-half team. In four of their first five games, the Flashes' scoring margin was greater in the second half than it was in the first half, and that held true tonight.
A Randal Holt superhoop gave Kent State a 30-28 lead not even a minute into the second half. UAB answered by taking three separate two-point leads of its own that the Flashes subsequently erased each time, leading to one last unexpected moment.
Having mentioned that Kent State is a second-half team, during the past few years Golden Flashes fans have become somewhat accustomed to coming to a roar when a layup or superhoop caps off a run that ties the game or gives KSU the lead. Tonight, however, the run was quite different.
With the game tied 36-36, officials spent a minute huddled at the table before deciding to turn UAB center Beas Hanga's foul into a technical, which led to Justin Greene knocking down two free throws and Evans converting a layup three seconds later as the Flashes retained possession.
After the teams alternated some turnovers and missed shots, Carlton Guyton assisted two layups by Evans and Holt (the second of which included a successful foul shot), and suddenly a peek at the scoreboard revealed the Flashes had somewhat quietly built an 11-0 run and a 45-36 lead that proved insurmountable.
Moore proved himself a threat, finishing as the game's leading scorer with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. But his performance was overshadowed by double-digit scoring efforts by four Flashes (Holt 13, Evans 12, Porrini 11 and Greene 10). Kent State is 5-1 after its five-game homestand and, with six consecutive road games looming on the schedule, will not return to the M.A.C. Center until January 2, giving the arena sound crew nearly a month to get its act together.
at KENT STATE 57, UAB 48 12/03/2011
UAB 1-6 (0-0) -- C. Moore 5-10 4-6 14; P. Purifoy 3-7 0-0 8; J. Swing 4-13 0-0 9; R. Williams 2-5 2-2 7; O. Soko 0-0 0-0 0; Q. Taylor 1-6 1-2 4; J. Tyler 3-7 0-0 6; K. Whitaker 0-1 0-0 0; B. Hamga 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 7-10 48. KENT STATE 5-1 (0-0) -- C. Guyton 2-9 0-0 5; J. Greene 2-9 6-6 10; R. Holt 4-8 4-5 13; M. Porrini 4-7 2-2 11; C. Evans 5-8 0-0 12; J. Manns 2-3 0-0 4; E. Gaines 0-2 0-0 0; P. Jackson 1-3 0-0 2; K. Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 12-13 57.
Three-point goals: UAB 5-18 (C. Moore 0-1; R. Williams 1-2; J. Swing 1-4; P. Purifoy 2-6; Q. Taylor 1-3; J. Tyler 0-1; K. Whitaker 0-1), KENT 5-13 (M. Porrini 1-2; C. Evans 2-5; R. Holt 1-4; C. Guyton 1-2); Rebounds: UAB 30 (J. Swing 8), KENT 26 (J. Greene 7); Assists: UAB 11 (Q. Taylor 3), KENT 12 (C. Guyton 5); Total Fouls -- UAB 11, KENT 10; Fouled Out: UAB-None; KENT-None.