KENT, Ohio — It wasn't exactly the homecoming Stan Heath had hoped for.
USF built an early 11-point lead, but Kent State kept chipping away and added to the Bulls' road woes en route to a 56-51 victory Sunday night. USF (5-5) is now 0-3 away from the Sun Dome.
The Bulls played with a thin front line after usual starters Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous didn't travel for unspecified team reasons.
"(Their absence) maybe disrupted us a little bit," Heath said. "But it is what it is. Our inability to make plays down the stretch was the deciding factor, although Kent had something to do with that. We need to get better, especially with the Big East season starting soon."
Heath made his first appearance at Kent State since he led the Golden Flashes to the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Tournament. He received a standing ovation before the game.
"I owe a lot to Kent State," Heath said. "I hate to lose, but if I have to, I'm glad it was to Kent. I just wish my team had played better."
Michael Porrini led the Golden Flashes (8-3) with 16 points, and Mid-American player of the year candidate Justin Green added 15 points and 14 rebounds.
After shooting 32 percent in the first half, Kent State got rolling partway through the second. Porrini got things started with two free throws to cut the USF lead to four then drove for a layup after forcing a jump ball on the defensive end. Heath called a timeout, but it was to no avail as Kent State completed an 8-0 run.
"Porrini really gave them a lot on both ends," Heath said. "I didn't realize how aggressive he is. He's a guy who can really score off the dribble."
Porrini clinched it with a 3-pointer in the final minute. Clinging to a three-point lead, Kent State used most of the shot clock before a swing pass found Porrini in rhythm.
Porrini, along with Green, was benched to start the game as a wakeup call by coach Geno Ford. Both got the message.
"I respect Coach for what he did," Porrini said. "We knew we had to be more aggressive, especially against a team that plays in the Big East."
USF's Jawanza Poland had 15 points and spot starter Ron Anderson Jr. had 10. Poland threw down several monstrous dunks, and Anderson played a steady game until leg cramps forced him to the sideline with five minutes to play.