Kent captures MAC
Golden Flashes stave off Miami's Cinderella bid
Updated: Sunday March 11, 2001 12:39 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Trevor Huffman scored 27 points as Kent State earned its second trip to the NCAA tournament and second Mid-American Conference tournament title with a 67-61 win Saturday night over Miami (Ohio).
Huffman, the tourney MVP, took over in the second half, scoring 14 of Kent State's final 16 points and 19 after halftime for the Golden Flashes (23-9), who made their only other trip to the NCAAs in 1999.
"I was a freshman then and it was crazy time for me," said Huffman. "I'll tell you what, we don't want to stop here. We're going there to win some games."
The MAC final wasn't the defensive slugfest expected as both teams shot better than 60 percent until the final 15 minutes. The game drew a championship game record crowd of 12,172 to Gund Arena.
Andrew Mitchell added 19 points for second-seeded Kent, which had lost its only meeting to the RedHawks (17-16) during the regular season and last year didn't get past the tournament quarterfinals.
Kent State's other MAC tournney title came in '99 over Miami, which has dropped four straight championship games.
Alex Shorts led eighth-seeded Miami, appearing in a record fifth straight final, with 26 points. He made 14-of-15 free throws. But his only miss -- on the front end of a one-and-one -- was a costly one with 58 seconds left and Miami trailing 64-60.
Shorts made his second attempt but Huffman, whose 3-point shooting defeated Ball State in the semis, then hit two of his 11 free throws to put Kent State ahead 66-61 with 31 seconds to go.
Freshman Juby Johnson missed a jumper on Miami's next trip and the RedHawks were forced to put Huffman back on the line.
He made 1-of-2 and when Miami's Jason Grunkemeyer missed in the lane, Kent State's Eric Thomas, who only came back this week after breaking his foot twice and undergoing knee surgery, then dribbled out the clock as his bench and fans stormed the floor.
Doug Davis added 12 points for Miami, but both he and senior Mike Ensminger fouled out in a 1-second span with Kent State leading 61-60.
Johnson, who made all five of his field-goal attempts in the first half, missed a layup with 2:31 that would have given Miami the lead, and Grunkemeyer had a 15-foot jumper rattle in and out the next time the RedHawks had it.
Huffman came up with a big basket every time the Golden Flashes needed one, and his jumper over Johnson with 1:13 left made it 64-60. He was a key reserve on last year's Kent State team which was bypassed by the NCAA selection committee despite a high RPI rating after they were bounced early in the MAC.
Miami has lost the last four MAC finals.
Huffman scored seven straight points -- four from the line -- to give Kent State a 61-56 lead with 4:39 remaining, but Miami cut it to one on its next trip with a 4-point play when Ensminger hit a 15-foot jumper as Shorts was fouled underneath.
With everyone expecting a defensive struggle, the teams came out firing in the first half and shot a combined 56 percent from the field.
Huffman, who made three 3-pointers in a 1:26 span in the semifinal win over Ball State, made a 3-pointer and then scored a conventional three-point play on consecutive trips in the first half to give the Golden Flashes a 31-24 lead.
But Davis scored seven points in the final 3:03 as Miami pulled within 35-31 at halftime.