The Kent State Tuscarawas men's basketball team halted a 10-game losing streak by withstanding every challenge made by visiting Akron Wayne, as the Golden Eagles downed the Warriors 83-72 in a Tuesday night make up game in Founders Hall Gym. The Navy and Gold charged ahead early, setting the tone with a dizzying up tempo offense and swarming defense as they raced to a 16-6 cushion before the visitors realized they needed a timeout.
With a barrage of timely threes by Drew Williams and Gunnar Tharp and three straight steals that went for layups by JaJuantae Young, Luke Butcher and Trevor Donaldson, things looked very grim for the visitors as KSU Tusc built a 30-9 advantage with 11:46 still left in the opening half. UA Wayne would get a basket to get to double digits at 11, but that basket was quickly negated by a Malik Campbell trey and a Jacob Hicks layup to grab the momentum back and the scoreboard read 35-11. The Warriors roared back however, with 15 straight points as the Golden Eagles offense fell silent and they failed to score for five minutes. Campbell stemmed the rising tide as he slashed to the basket with 4:17 left in the open half to make it a 37-26 lead.
Two wide open threes by Wayne cut the lead to 37-32 before Tharp hit a floater in the lane and Williams dashed backdoor for a twisting reverse layup to make it 41-34 to end the opening half. Tharp ended the first half with 14 points, Williams had 10 and Campbell nine.
The Warriors got the first basket to open the final stanza of play, but the Golden Eagles turned up the intensity and forged their lead to 52-36 with one of their patented blitzkrieg-like runs as they went on a 9-0 tear. That run was fueled by three Campbell steals that he turned into layups, two for himself and a great look ahead to Luke Butcher who outraced the Warriors down the floor for another. Jacob Hicks accounted for the other two baskets on an offensive stick back and a short jumper, after he found himself all alone in the lane after getting a nifty pass from Tharp who was in the right corner. Wayne responded with five points of their own, but after a quick timeout to reset, the Golden Eagles scored 12 straight on an inbounds play to Williams, another Campbell steal for a layup, a Tharp three ball and a steal by Donaldson who lobbed the ball down court to a streaking Butcher to increase the lead to 21 (64-43).
The Golden Eagles slowed down the pace a bit and seemed to then get stuck on 66 points forever as the Warriors carved the lead down to 66-58 aided by three consecutive triples, before Campbell straight line accelerated to the basket for a layup from the top of the key and Tharp turned a steal into an easy basket to stretch the margin to 70-60. With 1:27 left to play, the Navy and Gold opened the throttle once again as the spread widened to 79-66 on a Donaldson triple, a couple of free throws and an offensive rebound by Hicks off a missed charity toss who then located a lonley Tharp in the left corner for the dagger three and all that was left was to take care of the basketball to secure the win.
Campbell led the Golden Eagles scoring onslaught with 23 points, five steals and seven assists, Tharp had 18 and Williams added 17. Hicks grabbed 13 rebounds and cleaned six off the offensive glass, while Butcher had seven rebounds and also tied for a team high seven assists of the Eagles 22 shares on the night. For the game the winners shot 46% from the field on 35/76 shooting, making 27/49 two-point field goal attempts for 55% and 8/27 from distance for 30%.
The Golden Eagles hit the road to Buffalo, NY on Sunday, February 10, 2019 as they take on USCAA #2 ranked Villa Maria College (19-3) at 2 p.m.
OURS! The defensive pressure causes another UAW turnover. (Photos by Dave Contini)