Kent State's 31-game winning streak against Mid-American Conference West Division opponents came to a crashing halt in a 70-58 home loss to Toledo on Wednesday in the conference opener for both teams.
Losses to the Rockets sandwiched the streak that dated all the way back to a Jan. 2, 2008 in Toledo's Savage Hall. The last time Toledo won in Kent was Dec. 19, 1998 visit to the M.A.C. Center.
A big night by Rian Pearson helped the Rockets (5-7, 1-0) break the long drought. The MAC's leading scorer finished with 27 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the foul line.
"Pearson is very, very good," said Kent State coach Rob Senderoff. "And the crazy thing is we didn't do a bad job guarding him."
Senderoff wasn't happy with much of anything else he witnessed from his team. The Golden Flashes shot just 32.1-percent from the field (18-for-56) and 15.8-percent from three-point range (15.8-percent). They also turned the ball over 14 times against just eight assists.
"It certainly was not the way we wanted to start league play," said Senderoff. "Give credit to Toledo. They played well. But we didn't play well in really any facet. A lot of guys are struggling in a lot of ways."
Kent State trailed 28-25 at the break, then watched Toledo extend its lead to 14 points in the first five minutes of the second half. A rally led by Chris Evans, Bryson Pope and Kris Brewer helped the Golden Flashes pull to within three points late before a series of critical errors allowed Toledo to push the lead back out to double figures in the closing minutes.
"It was the Keystone Cops a little bit," said Senderoff. "We get a stop, outlet to them, they get a layup. We get a stop, two guys run and hit the ball off of each other and out of bounds. We get a breakaway layup and Bryson dribbles the ball off of his foot. Those are part of the reasons why we didn't win, but we didn't win for different reasons than just that."
Hustle plays by Pope were a big reason Kent State battled back in the second half. The junior finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes off of the Golden Flashes' bench.
Chris Evans led Kent State with 20 points and seven rebounds. Fellow senior Randal Holt added 10, but struggled from the field in a 2-for-15 shooting night.
"At the end of the day, and I say this to him and to anybody, I'll go down with Randal Holt," said Senderoff. "He is a four-year guy who has helped us win a lot of games. He's not playing very well right now. he's not shooting very well and he's got to defend a little bit better … But he is our senior. He is our leader. He just has to get himself out of it."
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for Kent State (9-6, 0-1).
The Golden Flashes go on the road for games at Ball State on Saturday and at Buffalo Jan. 16 before returning home to host Akron on January 19.