After being at the bad end of a 14-1 run, Eastern Michigan University saw its 20-point lead over Kent State University melt to seven with 5:05 to play.
“We understand it’s very difficult to score against our zone,” EMU coach Rob Murphy said. “So when people score, we know more times than not we’re going to get you to go on a three or four minute drought.”
Kent St. ended up going on that drought, shooting 1-of-8 from the field for the remainder of the contest while the Eagles went on a 14-4 run to cushion the lead and seal a 70-53 win.
“They were able to cut the lead to ten (and) we hadn’t responded to that the last three or four games, but today we did and we closed out the game,” Murphy said.
The victory ended a two-game losing skid and brought the Eagles’ up to .500 in the Mid-American Conference (5-5) and 13-10 overall. Kent St. dropped to 12-11 (3-7 MAC).
The win also snapped a 17-game losing streak against the Golden Flashes dating back to the 1996-97 season.
Guard Darell Combs came in with his second-best performance off the bench this season, notching 15 points.
“Coach has been preaching to me all year (to) stay consistent, get shots up and give us fire power off the bench,” Combs said.
Combs totaled 12 points at the end of the first half. He went on a tear with 12:14 left in the half, scoring seven straight points.
Those points kicked off a 15-2 run for the Eagles that put them up 28-14 with 5:28 left in the first half.
Guard Raven Lee contributed to that run with four points. Lee celebrated his birthday by leading the team in points alongside Combs with 15. He also had four rebounds and two assists.
Kent St. trimmed EMU’s lead back down to ten at 35-25 for halftime thanks to guard Derek Jackson, who had a three-pointer, an assist and a defensive rebound in the last 4:25 of the half. He co-led Kent St. in points with 11 and brought in four rebounds and two assists.
Forward Darren Goodson also led the Golden Flashes with 11 points and grabbed three rebounds.
With exceptional shooting from both squads in the first half, EMU shot 56.0 percent from the field while Kent State shot 45.5 percent. Both teams then suffered from the field in the second half, yet Kent State was the one that saw it reflect on the scoreboard going 26.7 percent from the field.
Eastern Michigan was able to put up another 35 points by going 20-for-27 from the free-throw line in the second half alone.
The Golden Flashes started the second half out on a 5-0 run, cutting EMU’s lead down to three.
However, a pair of layups from guard Mike Talley allowed the Eagles to recollect on offense.
Glenn Bryant III followed with some big blocks to regroup EMU defensively. He had three on the afternoon.
“We understood that we were at home and we still had the lead as opposed to looking at it like we’d given up the lead,” Murphy said. “[We saw it as] remain confident, remain poise and just make plays.”
The game attendance was announced at 716 people.
EMU snapped a 17-game losing streak to Kent State University that stretched over a 17-year span.
Combs’s best performance off the bench this season was his 23-point game at the University of Kentucky Nov. 27.
EMU and Kent State shot a combined 4-for-6 on three-pointers in a 1:52 span late in the first half. Together they made three consecutive.
Neither of EMU’s top two leading scorers (Karrington Ward and Glenn Bryant III) scored a point until 5:28 left in the first half.
The Eagles had 30 points in the paint, while Kent St. had 18.
Bryant III has fewer points in his last three games (20) then he did Jan. 29 against Bowling Green State University (26).
Kent St. missed 22 three-point attempts (on 26 tries), tying the highest number of misses in a game this season (Jan. 23 vs. WMU, 22 misses on 29 tries).
The Eagles head to John E. Worthen Arena this Wednesday Feb. 12 to take on the Ball State University Cardinals (4-17, 1-9 MAC) for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Next Saturday, they host the current No. 1 team in the MAC, the University of Toledo (20-3, 8-2 MAC) at 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center.
Follow Derrick on Twitter @derrickvergo