KENT, OH—History and tragedy repeated themselves on the Kent State campus Thursday as 12th-seeded MAC champion Kent State Golden Flashes were decimated in front of a chanting, screaming home crowd by the superior offensive firepower and tactical game plan of the fifth-seeded Ohio National Guard in the very first round of this year's NCAA tournament.
"It was an absolute bloodbath," said Kent State head coach Jim Christian, who said he was "still in shock" from the on-court massacre. "We certainly weren't ready for what happened out there… It seemed like one minute we were getting ready to square off, and the next they were just taking shot after shot. They kept shooting all day long, and we just couldn't defend against them out there."
"It was like they couldn't miss," said senior forward Kevin Warzynski. "They were taking shots from the lane, shooting from the perimeter, everywhere... We left it all on the floor, but they just killed us out there tonight."
"You never think something like this is going to happen," said Warzynski. "It was a disgrace. It's going to be a long time before we recover from this shameful performance."
Some observers have speculated that the National Guard squad began shooting aggressively in response to Kent State sniper Jay Youngblood, the student-athlete they believed to be the most dangerous on the court. Official stats reveal that the National Guard took an unusually high 67 shots in the first minute alone.
At press time, the National Guard staff was refusing to comment in depth on its part in what the press, players, and public alike are calling "an atrocity."
"My men were just doing what they were trained to do," said National Guard adjutant coach Bobby Canterbury. "You can't blame them. If the other guys get blown away, well, then we're doing our job."
Kent State players and fans alike began the night with an optimistic attitude, having clinched the MAC conference championship and its automatic tournament bid just the previous Saturday. In the days leading up to the contest, there was little mention of the possible historical impact of the first meeting between the two rivals in over 30 years.
"Yeah, I remember the loss we suffered to the Ohio National Guard in 1970—everyone does," said Kent State sports-information director Jeff Schaefer Thursday night, referring to the annihilation at the hands of the Guard that spawned the still-popular stadium anthem "Ohio." "That catastrophic defeat was more than an important moment in sports history—it was a seminal moment in American history. And now it's happened again."
"I was only a kid when that happened, but I still knew that performance was a national disgrace," said Kent State student and basketball fan Lori Klaus, who was seated close to the action in the student section and was wounded when an opposing shooting guard charged into the stands to fight for possession. "I was trying not to think about it when I came tonight. You think something like that can't happen anymore, but… I guess now I'm part of history, too."
"Why?" Klaus asked those around her. "Why did they do this?"