Kent State rides big lead to first-round upset

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Trevor Huffman doesn't consider Kent
State's victory over Oklahoma State an upset -- even if everyone
else would.

Demetric Shaw scored 21 points, and Huffman had 18 as the
10th-seeded Golden Flashes beat the No. 7 Cowboys 69-61 Thursday in
the South Regional, registering the NCAA tournament's first
surprise in its very first game.

Thu, March 14

I said it from day one and I'll say it again: The Mid-American Conference should have had more than one team in the NCAA Tournament. Kent State didn't waste any time proving how good the MAC is, running out to a 30-15 lead over Oklahoma State. Remember, the Cowboys are among the power teams and hail from one of the premiere conferences in America, the Big 12.

But Kent State's sensational guard, Trevor Huffman (18 points), teamed up with Demetric Shaw (21) on the wing to pull off another March shocker (Huffman was brilliant last year in a tournament upset over Indiana). And Oklahoma State was shut down from 3-point range (4-of-18).

Kent State's Stan Heath, my diaper dandy coach of the year, has gotten the job done in his first year as a head coach. He was an assistant with Tom Izzo at Michigan State, as was Marquette coach Tom Crean. Kent State has now won 19 straight -- and the MAC is the most underrated conference in the nation.

"I don't think anyone actually believed we were going to do it
except us," Huffman said. "We're a special team."

Kent State (28-5) has won 19 straight games.

Huffman said the team's first-round victory over Indiana last
year gave the Golden Flashes reason to believe they rate better
than a 10th seeding.

They looked good from the start Thursday, leading 30-15 with
about 5½ minutes left in the first half and holding off several
second-half rallies by the Cowboys (23-9).

"Our experience at the NCAAs helped us here," Shaw said. "We
kind of don't worry about the things that everybody else is
worrying about."

The closest Oklahoma State came down the stretch was 64-60, on
Ivan McFarlin's layup with 1:02 left. The Cowboys had the chance to
cut it further, but Kent State's Eric Thomas stole a pass from
Cheyne Gadson with 45 seconds left.

"They came at us, and we just had to fight them off," said
first-year Kent State coach Stan Heath. "We weren't perfect, but
we showed the resiliency."

Oklahoma State hurt itself with poor shooting, finishing
21-of-53 (39.6 percent) from the field.

Kent State was the lone Mid-American Conference team in the NCAA
tournament, because Bowling Green (24-8) and Ball State (20-11)
were passed over. Huffman said the Golden Flashes wanted to give
the NCAA selection committee something to think about.

"Of course, we want to make a name for ourselves and this
conference," Kent State's Andrew Mitchell said, "so next time
we'll get two teams in."

MAC commissioner Rick Chryst isn't so sure. He doesn't think
NCAA tournament success lasts long in committee members' minds.

"It's a little frustrating when you keep doing it over and over
again," Chryst said.

The Cowboys started just 4-of-19 from the field and went 8:40
between fields goals during one stretch.

In the second half, Oklahoma State had the lead down to five
points several times behind Fredrik Jonzen's inside play and Victor
Williams' driving baskets.

"We had two guards that went 2-for-14 and turned the ball over
10 times," said Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton, who fell to 32-23 in
NCAA tourney games. "I've always been a great guard coach and I
think that guards play such a big role in your success."

Jonzen finished with 19 points, and Williams 15.

"We missed a lot of shots early, we didn't execute an offense
throughout the game," Jonzen said, "and those things have cost us
all season long, and it did today."