Randal Holt tossed in a layup with three seconds left to spoil Fairfield's second-half comeback from double digits down and lead Kent State to a 73-71 victory at the Memorial A & C Center Wednesday night in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament in Kent, Ohio.
Senior guard Derek Needham scored 22 points in his final game at Fairfield (19-16), which came up one game shy of its fourth straight 20-plus-win season. Needham finished with 1,875 career points to rank third in school history as Fairfield played in a postseason tourney for a school-record fourth straight season.
Fairfield freshman Coleman Johnson added a career-high 18 points before fouling out with 1:31 remaining.
The Golden Flash (21-13) was led by Holt with 18 points and Bryson Pope's 10 points.
Fairfield came into the game 4-2 overall in CIT play and advanced to the semifinals last season before falling to eventual champion Mercer at Alumni Hall.
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Stags rallied in the second by making 54.5 percent (18-for-33) of their shots. With a 3-pointer from Needham, Fairfield tied it at 71 with 16 seconds left. But Kent State, which never let the Stags take the lead in the half, reclaimed the lead on Holt's basket.
Needham missed with a last-second, desperation 3 from around midcourt.
The Stags led early 3-0 off Marcus Gilbert's 3-pointer and hung with the Golden Flash for at least part of the first half. However, after Needham's 3-pointer pulled the Stags within three, 19-16, with 6:33 left, Kent State went on a 16-4 run to create some distance and went into the half up 36-26.
The first-half statistics certainly leaned in Fairfield's favor with the Stags hitting 9 of 27 shots (33 percent) while KSU was just 9 of 32 (28 percent). The difference, though, was at the foul line where the Golden Flash was 17-for-24 compared to a 5-for-6 effort from the Stags. Maurice Barrow, Keith Matthews, Gilbert (10 points) and Coleman Johnson all picked up three fouls in the half while Amadou Sidibe (nine rebounds) and Needham each had two.
Senior Colin Nickerson played only seven minutes -- all in the first half -- in his final game due to illness. The Stags' other senior guard, Desmond Wade, finished with six points.
email@example.com; http://twitter.com/wspaxton; http://blog.ctnews.com/paxton/