CLEVELAND -- Whenever Kent State needed to make a play, Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Justin Greene delivered.
Following a Jarrod Jones layup, Ball State was down two points with 4:34 left in the game. It was the closest margin since early in the second half.
The Golden Flashes went to their man and Greene calmly knocked down a baseline jumper. Danger averted.
Under three minutes to go, Kent State again needed points to hold off a Ball State run. Greene showed his versatility on back-to-back possessions.
He patiently backed down Malik Perry in the post before drawing a reach-in foul and free throws on one sequence. Next time down the floor, Greene faced up and ripped through quick towards the baseline before drawing contact, this time on Jones.
What ever move he chose, Ball State couldn't stop Greene and couldn't pick up the stops they needed to secure a win.
"Our defense on Greene is tough because they have so many weapons offensively," Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. "You're not really able to go in and double in the post or even shrink the floor because they have shooters. It really leaves your defense stretched out and gives Greene way too much area to go to work and play one-on-one."
Ball State tried to use its own First Team All-MAC Selection in Jones in a similar fashion down low. The two big men went back-and-forth down the stretch, trying to carry their teams to the finish.
Jones finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Greene had 20 points and 12 rebounds.
"He didn't have a good game the first time we played them so I knew he was going to come out firing," Greene said. "He did, he hit a few jump shots and got to the basket. I just wanted to contain him because he's a good player and he's going to score."
Jones didn't get much help from his team in the last five minutes. The few misses he had led to run outs and buckets for Kent State.
The Cardinals were within striking distance with under four minutes to go, but mistakes cost them.
Rodriquez Sherman turned a Tyrae Robinson turnover into a fast break layup that pushed the lead to six points.
Taylor said the play really took to wind out of his players.
"That was one of those clear path breakaways," Taylor said. "I think any time you give up a clear path lay-in late in the game it's always difficult to recover from. You're working so hard on defense in the last four minutes and you just give away two points, that's really difficult."