Kent State Basketball Ten Years Ago- 2002 Team Was Fun to Follow

Ten years ago, Kent State mens basketball team had Antonio Gates, John Edwards, Andrew Mitchell, Eric Thomas, Bryan Pellegrino, Trevor Huffman, Nate Gerwig, Eric Haut, and Demetric Shaw on their roster. Stan Heath was their coach and the team was projected to win the MAC. These players were individuals but could function as one team under Heath’s leadership.

Winning the MAC regular season and tournament were both achieved but the fun would continue beyond the MAC tournament.

To begin March Madness, Kent State had to play Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Oklahoma State was the seventh seed in the region; Kent State was seeded tenth. Oklahoma State came from what was considered to be a more competitive conference and not many people penciled Kent State to win on their brackets.

Those who penciled in Oklahoma State to win would soon be disappointed when Kent State scored an upset. It was only one win but their next victory over second seeded Alabama started to get them some attention. With two wins over higher seeded teams, Kent State was proving how competitive they could be in the NCAA Tournament.

After win over Alabama, the nation and Northeast Ohio began to take notice. Kent State was a smaller school than some of the teams they had already beaten and it had been a long time since a smaller college program had gone very far in the NCAA Tournament. It didn’t matter if you were a Kent State alum or not; following the Flashes was exciting and gave fans in Northeast Ohio something to look forward to.

The next test would be against Pitt, who was seeded third in the region. Whether or not Kent State could be Pitt was still in question but the Flashes had proven they could play well against tough competition.

Beating Pitt would not be easy as the game went into overtime but when the final horn sounded, the Flashes walked out with a 78-73 win to advance Elite Eight. The rush and excitement was still there and not many people could believe that Kent State was going to be one win away from going to the Final Four.

As the week rolled on, anticipation for the next game against Indiana grew with each day. Everyone was looking forward to see if Kent State could take down the Big Ten powerhouse and advance to the Final Four. Everyone wanted to see the Flashes succeed and see the great story continue.

When the game came on, various bars, restaurants and any local business that had a TV set put the game on. If you went out to eat that night, there was a good chance the Kent State and Indiana game was on in the background. Even if you went to a local Blockbuster video to rent a movie to watch, the movie trailers and previews were replaced with coverage of the game between the smaller school from the MAC and the Big Ten school in Indiana. Everyone wanted to see if the Flashes could pull off another upset.

The game began and Indiana did what no other school had done in the previous three rounds, which was take an early commanding lead and keep it. Kent State could not catch its breath in a game that was dominated by Indiana three point shots and with a 81-69 loss, the road to the Final Four had ended.

The Flashes incredible season was over and changes were to be had when the season was over. Head Coach Stan Heath moved on to coach Arkansas and his Assistant Jim Christian would take over. Christian would lead the Flashes until 2008 and kept them competitive as they earned more milestones along the way.

The Flashes have not had a run that far into the NCAA Tournament since that 2001-2002 season but no one can forget the excitement from those games ten years ago.




~ by jeffrsabo on February 19, 2012.

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