CLEVELAND -- Back and forth each team went the whole game. Trading baskets to the final minutes, as if to say "anything you can do I can do better."
Kent State was better and a lot taller too. That size and speed was enough to knock Ball State out of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday night in the semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena, 79-68.
"I'm exceptionally proud of this team. It's always hard when a season comes to an end but I'm really proud of what these guys (have) accomplished," said coach Billy Taylor.
Kent State continuously received one, two and sometime even three looks at the basket each possession due to combination of poor boxing out by Ball State and Kent State having a major height advantage.
If Kent State missed a jumper, Justin Greene, this season's MAC Player of the Year, along with the rest of Kent State squad, was there to pull down the rebound and kick it back out.
"We played long possessions on defense and sometimes it crushes you when you get that stop and then they get the offensive rebound and a basket," Jarrod Jones said. "It's a waste of a possession on defense when you give 35 seconds of effort then you get that stop and they still end up getting the rebound."
It was obvious early on that Ball State was going to have trouble handling Greene and Justin Manns, the Flashes 6-foot-11 center.
Greene posted a double-double scoring 20 points and 12 boards. Michael Porrini followed with 15 points, eight assists and nine rebounds.
Three Cardinals scored in double figures. Jones posted his twelfth double-double on the year leading all scorers with 22 points while pulling down 11 boards. Jesse Berry had 14 and Randy Davis chipped in 11.
The Cardinals were outscored in the paint 50 to 26 in the game. Early on, the Golden Flashes had guards cutting towards the lane for easy looks, putting Ball State in a bind.
A 6-foot-4 Malik Perry and 6-foot-9 Jones could not make up for the height advantage the Golden Flashes presented. The Cardinals were out-rebounded 40 to 22 on the night.
"I think their team did a great job of crashing the glass one through five," Jones said. "Their guards (and) bigs rebounded (too). They were doing a good job of being consistent and crashing the glass."
The effort by Kent State on the offensive glass continuously hurt Ball State, resulting in 18 second chance points for the Golden Flashes.
Including the MAC Tournament, the Golden Flashes had won 23 straight games against the MAC West prior to last night.
The win against Ball State extends the streak to 24 games.
The last time they were defeated by a MAC West opponent was Feb. 2, 2008 against Toledo.
With minutes remaining Ball State was still hanging around, but a 13-2 run including a steal and breakaway layup for Kent State near the end of the second half sealed the game for the Flashes.
"If you would have told me with seven minutes to go it would have been a two possession game I'd like our chances," Taylor said. "I thought our guys fought hard and played with a lot of passion."
Taylor could only sit in front of the all but empty media room after the game and wish Kent State the best of luck in the championship game against Akron tonight.
Looking tired and strained himself, Taylor said his guys just became worn out.
"We lost to a team that was a better team tonight," he said. "We couldn't get the stops in the paint the way we wanted. We scored the ball for a while but we ran out of gas."