RedHawks come up short despite improvements
KSU's Carry explodes for 31 points.
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- Miami head coach Travis Steele summed it up: "There's a reason he was conference player of the year."
Speaking to media after Saturday's 69-66 Kent State win over MU, Steele was quick to credit KSU guard Sincere Carry. Last year's MAC Player of the Year played a key role in lifting the Flashes to a hard-fought win against Miami. Carry finished with 31 points and committed just one turnover while playing over 39 minutes.
"We tried to do a lot of different things (on him), and none of it was working," said Steele, who felt his own squad played one of its better games of the season despite falling to 0-2 MAC (6-9 overall). Kent State raised its own record to 12-3 on the year and 2-0 in MAC play.
Carry already had 28 points when . . .
. . . Ryan Mabry scored off a no-look behind the back bounce pass from Anderson Miraumbeaux with 2:30 left in the contest. That brought the RedHawks to within one at 60-59.
The crowd buzz from that nifty play had barely subsided when Carry drained a three at the other end. After a Miami turnover, Carry calmly set up the Flashes offense before lofting a perfect pass near the rim. Myrne Thomas grabbed it in mid-air and threw down a massive dunk that put the visitors up six (65-59) at 1:12.
With Kent State already shooting the double-bonus, the Flashes quick five-point burst proved decisive. Kent State hit all four free throw opporunities down the stretch. That was enough to hold off three RedHawk baskets -- two in the final eight seconds.
Carry, a 6-1 senior guard, is averaging 16.3 ppg this season. However, he hit 12-of-21 shots from the field overall, 2-of-5 treys and 5-of-6 free throws while equaling his high score for the season. He also had 31 points Nov. 10 against Baldwin-Wallace. Just one other KSU player reached double figures. Thomas registered 12 points.
Miami, meanwhile, had a balanced scoring effort as four players reached double figures. Mekhi Lairy led the way with 17 points. Morgan Safford had a double-double wit 15 points and 11 rebounds. Mirambeaux tallied 13, while Mabry chipped in 10 points.
Facing a MAC East power, the RedHawks were able to stay within four points throughout the first half and led for 8:17 of the period. They did it by limiting Kent State to 32 points on 41.4 percent shooting. It was an improvement over what Steele had often saw during non-conference play. "I don't know that (our defense) could have gotten any worse than (it was) during non-conference (play)," Steele said.
The RedHawks also improved on passing, although KSU still had a 7-3 edge in points off turnovers by intermission. When play resumed for the final period, Miami made several quick turnovers and picked up four fouls within the first three minutes. As the game continued, the miscues and fouls would take their toll. Kent State finished with a 17-10 advantage in points off turnovers. It also was able to shoot nine more free throws after reaching the double bonus with 4:15 remaining.
Steele noted two key MU contributors -- Safford and Mirambeaux -- were limited after reaching four fouls. "We do got to stay out of foul trouble," Steele said. "When Morgan . . . and Anderson . . . got (their) fourth, I thought it changed the game.
He continued, "We've gotten a lot better (on defense). Central Michigan was way better defensively. Tonight was way better defensively."
Miami's largest lead of the second half was six points. That came at 8:20 following a Kamari Williams triple that left the hosts in front 53-47. However, Kent State ran off six straight to tie the game. Lairy's floater in the lane game MU its last lead. Carry knotted the score with a driving layup at the other end and put the Flashes in front for good with a charity toss at 4:33. Kent State held Miami off the rest of the way.
"If we take a little bit better care of the ball tonight, I think we win the game. That's something we're going to continue to focus on moving forward," Steele said. "Our margin for error is a little smaller right now, but we've still got a chance to win these games if we do what we're supposed to do. . . . I like the direction our team is heading."
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.