Men’s basketball’s aggressive defensive performance key in bounce-back win

Redshirt Senior Justyn Hamilton gets the hook shot to work in the Kent State Golden Flashes 69-52 win on Wednesday night.

Jimmy Oswald Sports Editor

The Kent State men’s basketball team held Detroit Mercy to a 28.8 percent field goal percentage in a defensively dominated 69-52 win on Thursday. 

It was the Titans’ worst performance shooting from the field this season, and they only shot 25 percent on three pointers. 

“We have to be a good defensive team,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “For us to be successful, we’re going to have to be really good defensively. We were as poor on offense as any team I’ve ever had on Monday, but we were equally as bad on the defensive end. But if we hold a team to 52 points, we’ll have a chance to win just about any game we play.” 

The Flashes held senior guard Antoine Davis to 19 points, a 29.4 field goal percentage (his lowest this season), six rebounds and seven assists.

Davis came into the game with 2,220 career points and ended the 2020-21 season averaging 3.85 three-point field goals per game, which was fifth all-time in NCAA history. 

Senderoff said knowing that Davis was here helped the defense.

“We were locked in,” Senderoff said. “These guys all know he can go for 40 [points] in a game, he’s done it multiple times. If you’re not locked in with him, it’s going to be a long night.” 

Davis went 3-of-10 from the distance, and he scored seven of his 19 points in the last two minutes with KSU up by more than 15 points. He averaged 24 points a game last season. 

Redshirt junior guard Malique Jacobs said stopping Davis was one of the team’s main pritorites. 

“He likes rocking and then pulling up,” Jacobs said. “We were really just making him drive and making him uncomfortable. We just kept pressing up on him, putting a hand up.” 

The game was back-and-forth to start, and the two teams were tied at 12 with 13 minutes left in the first half. 

KSU went on a 7-0 run to take the lead, but the Titans scored six straight points to pull within one. 

The Flashes took a 28-22 lead into halftime. 

Detroit Mercy went 6-of-23 from the field in the first half compared to Kent State’s 12-of-27. 

The Titans were within five points five minutes into the second half, but KSU broadened its lead throughout the half and went on an 8-0 run to go up 15 points. 

Detroit Mercy never came close to the lead again.

The Flashes scored seven straight points to make it 60-39 with just under five minutes left in the game and allowed some garbage-time points to the Titans for a final score of 69-52. 

It was the 10th straight time the team has won at home immediately following a home loss.

“That’s a sign of a good program,” Senderoff said. “You’re disappointed and then you come out the right way. You don’t let that become a habit.” 

After KSU was outrebounded 41-27 in its loss to Towson, Kent State flipped the script by beating Detroit Mercy on the boards 41-27. 

Jacobs said he and the team just have to “keep crashing” on the glass.

“I can read and see when it’s short or long,” he said. “Just trusting my instincts. Just crashing. And coach Sendy tells everybody ‘[Jacobs] is gonna crash regardless, so somebody get back.’ So I know somebody is already getting back, so I’m going to crash every time. That’s how I get my extra points and possessions, so that’s what I have to do.” 

The Flashes had 16 assists after only having seven against Towson, and they shot 44.2 percent from the field after a season-low 28.8 percent against the Tigers. 

“Proud of the way we played tonight,” Senderoff said. “[We] shared the basketball, defended at an incredibly high level, it was a good way to bounce back from the way we played against Monday. We gotta learn from Monday and tonight we showed that we did. “

Redshirt sophomore guard Giovanni Santiago admitted a game like that was still on their minds.

“We never want to lose, especially at home, the way we did,” he said. “It was definitely in the back of our minds. We were focused. We had a great shootaround. We came with the right mentality from the get-go and that was the difference.” 

Kent State went 15-of-16 on free throws, and it is shooting 83.6 percent from the free-throw line this season, which leads the NCAA. 

Jacobs, who is second on the team in points, had a season-high 23 points, a team-high 11 rebounds, three assists and one block. It was his second double-double of the year. 

Senderoff said that Jacobs played “great.”

“He was disappointed in how he played on Monday,” Senderoff said. “This is the most impactful role he’s had on a team. So sometimes you have to learn the hard way that you have to be mentally and physically prepared every night. He and the whole team bounced back pretty well.” 

Jacobs went 6-of-11 from the field after an abysmal game against Towson where he was 3-of-13 on FGs and only had five rebounds. 

“Just trusting myself,” Jacobs said. “Like coach always says, ‘Get lost in the game.’ I talked to a few people like Danny [Pippen], he texted me and just kept giving me confidence. If you watch film, I got killed last game. That’s not normal for me, I play defense. I had to take it real personal.” 

Redshirt senior forward Justyn Hamilton, who went 3-of-12 against Towson, was 4-of-7 on field goals with 12 points, five rebounds and one block. 

Hamilton did all his work off the bench as this was the first game this season he wasn’t in the starting lineup. 

Senderoff said that Hamilton played with “tremendous energy.”

“He asked me to come out, two or three times, because he was so tired,” Senderoff said. “Because he was playing so hard. He hadn’t asked me to come out prior, so he wasn’t playing as hard as he was tonight.” 

It was also redshirt senior forward Tervell Beck’s first game out of the starting lineup after he went 0-of-5 against the Tigers. 

Beck went 2-of-5 with four points, two rebounds and one steal in 13 minutes.

“We were +20 when he was in the game,” Senderoff said. “So that’s a good sign. We hadn’t played well in the front court for a little bit. But I believe in [Beck and Hamilton].” 

Santiago scored 11 points, had a team-high five assists, five rebounds and one steal. 

Redshirt junior guard Sincere Carry had a season-low six points, but he had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. 

Senderoff said Carry was incredible on defense despite his low-scoring total.

“All of these guys, as we get more comfortable with our roles,” Senderoff said. “And what we need to bring each night, individually and collectively, we can continue to get better.

Santiago said the team is still a work in progress with only three non-conference games left.

“But tonight was a step in the right direction,” Santiago said. “We’re going to look at film tomorrow, get back focus for our next game and just keep getting better each day.” 

KSU will next travel to Morgantown to play West Virginia (8-1) on Sunday at 4 p.m. on ESPN 2. The Mountaineers are coming off a 56-53 win over No. 15 Connecticut. 

“We just gotta lock in,” Jacobs said. “When we all play together and swing the ball, nobody can beat us. We have to rebound. We rebound and make them get one-shot possessions, we will be okay.”

Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]