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January 17, 2008Oxford-- The Kent State men's basketball team began arguably the toughest three-game stretch of the season Thursday night. Even they didn't expect it to start like this.
The Flashes shot 70-percent from the field in the first half and junior guard Al Fisher scored a career-high 21 points as Kent State soundly defeated last year's Mid-American conference champion, Miami, 74-62.
"I'm definitely surprised because (my teammates) said it was not going to be easy," Fisher said. "They said it would be the like no other game we have played so far."
In a way, it still remained different from the other games.
Kent State played possibly its best half of basketball this season. The red-hot 70-percent shooting (14-20) in the first half was the second highest field goal percentage in a half they have had all season. They shot 73-percent in the first half against St. Louis on Nov. 28.
The Flashes also dominated the RedHawks defensively in the first half forcing 11 turnovers and getting seven steals while holding Miami to 41-percent shooting (10-24).
"When you play on the road its obviously very important to get off to a good start," Kent State head coach Jim Christian said. "Especially when you're playing Miami who is such a good team defensively that you have to try to get some baskets to gain confidence early in the game."
Miami struggled all game to find any type of rhythm on either end of the court. Three players - senior guard Tim Pollitz (18 points), junior Kenny Hayes (16 points) and junior forward Micheal Bramos (a game high 23 points) - scored 57 of the RedHawk's 62 points. If it wasn't for the play of Bramos, Miami would have been run out of it's own gym.
After sitting nearly half of the first period in foul trouble, Bramos came alive in the second half.
Trailing by 21, Bramos converted two consecutive non-conventional three-point plays to spur a 14-4 run by the RedHawks and pull them within 13 of the Flashes. Despite his play, Miami could get no closer than eight points with one minute, 15 seconds remaining in the game. Bramos left the game with an unspecified ankle injury in the final seconds of the game.
"We put about three or four different guys on him," Christian said. "Trying to keep a fresh body on Bramos for as long as we could and he was still finding ways to score."
With the win Kent State remains atop the MAC East leader board with a 14-3 record (3-0 MAC), one game ahead of Akron (13-3), who beat Ohio, 55-54, Thursday. Miami drops to 0-3 in conference play, but Christian still expects the RedHawks to compete for the MAC title all season.
"We got beat by a very good ball club tonight," Miami head coach Charlie Coles said. "We helped them out in the first half because we didn't play very well. We dug such a hole that i don't think the game was ever in doubt."