After starting Friday's regular-season finale against rival Akron with the kind of defensive pressure that lends itself to Kent State's favorite offense – easy baskets in transition – the host Flashes forgot that important lesson come the second half.
Despite owning a 27-18 lead at halftime in front of a nationally televised ESPN2 audience, KSU sat back and all but watched the rival Zips race out to an unanswered 22-2 run that handed the Flashes a disheartening 61-55 loss in front of a sell-out crowd on Senior Night.
"We had a god formula for 20 minutes and we had a good formula for 28 minutes," KSU coach Rob Senderoff said. "But you gotta do it the entire game."
Senderoff was referring to playing with a consistent defensive pressure for two halves, not just one, as has proven to be KSU's Achilles Heel all season long.
It continued Friday at the M.A.C. Center, as the Flashes (20-10 overall, 10-6 in the Mid-American Conference) had no answer for Akron's second-half run before a couple desperation 3-pointers in the final minute made the game appear closer at the end than it really was.
The loss cost KSU a chance to move up to a No. 3 seed in next week's MAC Tournament and kept them from clinching the school's fourth undefeated MAC home record.
Instead, Akron (21-10, 13-3) raced back to James A. Rhodes Arena to cut down the nets after clinching the MAC regular season title outright.
The game began on a promising note for the Flashes, as Senior Night brought out the best out out of senior point guard Mike Porrini. His aggressive slashing to the basket early on resulted in him scoring 6 of KSU's first 12 points as the Flashes defense was at its best.
In fact, KSU's defensive pressure led to Akron shooting 7-for-24 in the first half, including going 0-for-7 from 3-point range and committing 14 first-half turnovers.
After enduring an 8-minute and 25-second scoring drought, UA shook off its offensive funk and a quick 10-0 run put them right back in it, tying the game 18-18 with 4:36 to go in the half.
But the Flashes answered with a 9-0 spurt of their own to close out the half, taking a 27-18 lead at halftime despite Akron having its way with senior forward Justin Greene (0-for-3 shooting with only 3 rebounds).
Then the second half started – and it was over for Kent State.