BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (Ticker) -- After being upstaged by former coach Bob Knight, fourth-seeded Indiana faltered again in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Trevor Huffman scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half as 13th-seeded Kent State rallied from a 12-point deficit and earned their first NCAA Tournament win, a 77-73 upset of the Hoosiers in a West Region game at the Cox Arena.
"Oh yes, it was an upset," said Kent State coach Gary Waters. "Obviously, you're talking about a Big Ten school. One of the things I did feel, though, and I thought our players felt the same thing, was this was a young, inexperienced team and we knew our guards were experienced and could go out and take it to them, and that's all we talked about." The Mid-American Conference tournament champion, Kent State (24-9) lost its only previous NCAA Tournament game in 1999 to Temple. The Golden Flashes will play fifth-seeded Cincinnati in the second round.
"This is my second NCAA Tournament appearance and the first time I have gotten to play," Huffman said. "I was uptight and I told myself at halftime just to go out and play, let your God-given abilities take over. I prayed, I asked for that and it came true." The heartbreaking loss was a disappointing finish for Indiana coach Mike Davis, who took over for the legendary Knight and guided the Hoosiers to their highest tournament seed since they entered the 1993 Field of 64 as the top seed in the Midwest. However, it turned into the school's fifth first-round elimination in the last seven years.
"I give Kent State all the credit. They were better than us down the stretch," Davis said. "We didn't capitalize on our opportunities and they did." "It is extremely disappointing to the point of being sickening," said center Kirk Haston, who led Indiana with 29 points and nine rebounds.
Ironically, when the game started Knight was holding a news conference at Texas Tech, where he may take over as coach.
The Hoosiers controlled the first half and held a 42-34 lead at intermission after Tom Coverdale hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
A 3-point play by Haston gave the Hoosiers their biggest lead at 54-42 with 13:41 left.
But Huffman hit a 3-pointer and a pair of layups in a 12-2 run which helped Kent State pull within 56-54 with 10:26 left.
Huffman gave the Golden Flashes their first lead of the half at 64-63 when he converted a layup with 5:38 left. He added a free throw when Coverdale received a technical after fouling out on a reach-in call with 4:34 remaining.
The absence of Coverdale hurt Indiana down the stretch.
"I don't want to make any excuses, but Tom Coverdale is the only point guard we have," Davis said. "He plays 40 minutes a game for us throughout the season. Without him, we started panicking, we didn't get the proper spacing and didn't hit guys that were open." A layup by freshman A.J. Moye, who finished with 12 points, tied the game and Indiana reclaimed the lead at 66-65 when Haston converted 1-of-2 free throws with 3:30 left.
But Huffman gave Kent State the lead for good when he hit a running bank shot in the lane with 3:24 left and connected on a 3-pointer with 2:34 remaining to increase the advantage to 70-66.
"On that 3-pointer, I just had one second on the shot clock so I just fired it up and it went in," Huffman said. "We really picked it up in that second half. We hit the boards better and we much more aggressive than we were in the first." After Haston made a layup for Indiana, Demetric Shaw scored on a follow shot for Kent State with 1:44 left.
A tip-in by Moye pulled Indiana within 72-70 with 49 seconds remaining, but Andrew Mitchell, who missed four of his first five shots, hit a jumper in the lane for Kent State with 21 seconds left.
Huffman converted 3-of-4 free throws in the final eight seconds to seal the win.
Kyrem Massey had 15 points, including 11 in the first half, for the Golden Flashes.
"I came in with the mindset of one and you're done," Massey said. "I'm not ready to be done yet. I went ahead and became the aggressor." Indiana shot 56 percent in the first half, but slipped to 30 percent (11-of-28) in the second half when it squandered the 12-point lead.
"This is not the coach's fault," said Indiana freshman Jared Jeffries. "All the coach can do is give us a game plan and it worked. We were up by 12 points. It was up to us to execute and finish the game out, and we didn't do that." Haston scored 14 points in the first half and Coverdale added eight when the Hoosiers built its eight-point advantage.