The 2011 National Invitational Tournament kicked off today with some exciting finishes, including the St. Mary’s Gaels heartbreaking defeat at the hands of the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Gaels entered the game as an eleven point favorite against Kent State but Kent State came out prepared to battle. Saint Mary’s appeared to be in position to roll to victory, leading by as many as 11 points with 8:36 to go. However, a late-game meltdown cost the Gaels a chance at further postseason play.
Gaels forward Rob Jones hit a three pointer with 2:27 to go to give SMC a six point lead. Kent State responded with a pair of layups to cut the lead to two before sending Mickey McConnell to the free throw line to attempt two free throws with 46 seconds left. The normally sure-handed McConnell hit the first free throw but missed the second one, leaving SMC up 68-65. Kent State scored a quick basket and then fouled Clint Steindle, who made both free throws giving St. Mary’s a 70-67 lead. Then things got crazy.
Kent State grabbed a layup as Michael Porrini was interfered with and given credit for the basket. On the ensuing St. Mary’s possession, the inbounds pass to Clint Steindl was lost out of bounds and Kent State got the ball back. A well drawn pass and drive to the lane gave the Golden Flashes a 71-70 lead with 4 seconds left. Mickey McConnell attempted a layup as time expired but it bounced off the rim. Suffice to say it was a heartbreaking end to the all-conference career of Mickey McConnell.
While the Gaels now head home, Kent State advances to face Fairfield who grabbed their own upset in defeating the Colorado State Rams.