Kent State's Meers saves best for last to shoot down Loyola 0-for-5, he hits 3 in last : 02 to cap 57-56 comeback win

November 29, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

For a guy with a reputation of being a shooter, Kent State's Nate Meers spent yesterday mostly in a daze. Yet even though he was tentative in missing all five of his shots, when Kent State closed to two points behind Loyola in the closing seconds it was Meers who the team looked to for heroics.

"He struggled, but Nate's a shooter," said Kent State coach Gary Waters. "And shooters don't stop shooting. One time, it's going to fall."

It finally fell for Meers with 2.6 seconds left, as he drilled a clutch three-pointer from the right corner that gave Kent a 57-56 win before 1,028 at Reitz Arena.

Meers' shot proved to be a heartbreaker for the Greyhounds, who lost their first game after opening the season with three straight wins.

"It's a bad loss," said Loyola coach Dino Gaudio, still stunned nearly a half-hour after the defeat. "We had the game won, and we just didn't do some of the things that we needed to do. It was a bitter pill to swallow."

What made the pill tough to go down for Gaudio was the manner in which Loyola allowed a 12-point lead midway through the second half to dissolve.

The Greyhounds committed nine of their 18 turnovers over the last 10 minutes, allowed second-chance opportunities and missed a big free throw -- all contributing to the loss.

None of the turnovers was bigger than the one committed by junior guard Jason Rowe with 37 seconds left. With the Greyhounds leading 56-52 with less than a minute left, Rowe, who struggled with his shot (3-for-12) most of the game, was called for a 10-second violation. Six seconds later, Kent State center John Whorton was fouled and hit two free throws that cut the Golden Flashes' deficit to 56-54.

"I thought they were going to foul me," Rowe said. "Then I realized no one was coming, and I tried to get past half court. That error hurt us."

Still Loyola, leading by two, had a chance to put the game away with 22 seconds left when Damien Jenifer (Mervo) was fouled and stepped to the line in a one-and-one situation.

As Jenifer stepped to the line, Rowe could be heard shouting "It's over, it's over." But Jenifer, who had hit just three of six free throws on the season going in, missed the front end of the one-and-one.

Kent State grabbed the rebound and called timeout, during which Gaudio emphatically told his Loyola team, "No threes."

Still, Kent State went for the win, and called a play that had Meers -- despite his struggles, a 51.9 percent three-point shooter going into the game -- coming off a screen at the top of the key. When that play broke down, Meers found himself running toward the ball in the right corner.

The pass he took from teammate Ed Norvell was nearly a handoff, and the 6-foot-3 Meers had to turn across his body to get the shot off over the outstretched hands of Loyola 6-8 forward Brian Carroll.

"They did a good job defensively, and I had to free lance," Meers said. "It did feel funny [shooting across his body], and it nearly got blocked. But when I released it, it felt pretty good."

The shot fell, setting off a wild celebration on the visiting bench. Loyola called timeout to set up a last play, but Blanchard Hurd's attempt at a court-length pass to 6-10 center Roderick Platt was tipped, and fell near half court.

Hurd led Loyola with 17 points, and Platt had 16, but the two combined for only two in the last 10 minutes. Rowe had 10 assists, but didn't score for the game's first 25 minutes.

It proved to be a tough lesson learned for Loyola, which, in facing its toughest opponent, failed to put Kent State away when it had the opportunity.

"I just thought we were a little bored with preparation," Gaudio said. "Maybe this is something that will get their attention. We basically gave the game away, that's what hurts."

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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