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Men’s basketball bounces back, defeating Fresno State

Matthew Brown
Graduate student Chris Payton Jr. hangs from the hoop after scoring a slam dunk during the game against Fresno State on Nov. 11, 2023.

Kent State men’s basketball finished a three-game homestand Saturday by defeating Fresno State 79-69 inside the M.A.C.C.

The Flashes improved to 2-1 on the year, while the Bulldogs fell to 1-1. 

Kent State had a quick turnaround after falling to James Madison on Thursday night in double overtime.

Junior Jalen Sullinger looks for a way to break in towards the net during the game against Fresno on Nov. 11, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

“It’s great to come back and get a win tonight; our guys played really energized, and to be able to respond the way that we did to Thursday was fantastic.” coach Rob Senderoff said. 

The Flashes used their defense to get out to a hot start while building a lead of 31-22 at halftime. Kent State forced 15 turnovers in the half while shooting 42% from three. 

“We had really good defense in the first half; we held them to 22 points,” junior guard Jalen Sullinger said. “I think that kind of set the tone for the first half, and we just had to come back with that same effort.”

Sullinger continued his hot start to the season with 17 points, including three three-pointers. He now leads the team in scoring with 21.3 points per game early in the season.

Last season, Sullinger won Mid-American Conference Sixth Man of the Year.

“All I really want to do is win and step into this role,” he said. “I’m ready for it, and I know my teammates are ready too.”

Coming into the season, Sullinger had only started four games in his career – this season, he has started all three games.

After halftime, the Bulldogs came out firing, but Kent State maintained composure and held the lead. 

Fresno State shot 73% from the field in the second half, but the Flashes kept up the pace while shooting 53%. 

“We have to clean up our transition defense,” Senderoff said. When you turn it over, it’s hard to get back, but we have to try to make plays.

“It had not been a problem in any of our prior games. But it was a problem tonight. So we’ll address that moving forward. Because we have to get better at that.”

Kent basketball team players celebrate as they pull further ahead of Fresno State during the game on Nov. 11, 2023. (Matthew Brown)

Kent State used their depth to wear down the Bulldogs as redshirt sophomore and redshirt junior Julius Rollins and VonCameron Davis each scored eight points in valuable minutes for the Flashes. 

“Just staying ready and bringing tremendous energy off the bench,” Davis said. “Playing defense is always the first mindset, and the offense will come.”

Kent State will now have six days off before traveling to the Virgin Islands for a three-day tournament for the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.

Up first, the Flashes will take on Hampton University on Nov. 17 at 6:45 p.m.

The Pirates are 1-1 on the season, averaging 94.5 points per game.

“We get to play three games in three days,” Senderoff said. “We’ll get a chance to learn more about where we’re at and try to keep getting better.”

Matthew Franos is a reporter. Contact him at mfranos

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Matthew Brown, Photo Editor
Matthew is a junior photography major. He has a passion for photography and traveling. Contact him at [email protected].

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