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‘We have to play better’: Men’s basketball struggles late against Charleston

Cadie Pierce
Kent State junior guard Jalen Sullinger dives between Charleston forward Frankie Policelli (left) and guard Reyne Smith to gain possession of a loose ball during their game on Nov. 26, 2023.

Kent State men’s basketball has allowed opponents to score more than 80 points once this season. 

On Sunday, the Flashes (4-3) lost to the College of Charleston (3-3) 84-78.

“They made a ton of winning plays when they needed to, and they’re a tough team,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “There are a lot of championship-level players on their roster, and they competed that way, especially down the stretch.”

The Cougars came into the game shooting 24% from behind the arc, and at halftime, they converted on six of 14 shots from three.

“We didn’t do what we needed to take away threes,” Senderoff said. “We have to get better to win games like this. Our schedule is not easy. All the games we’re playing this season are going to be similar to Charleston.”

After a 20-12 run in the final eight minutes of the half, KSU led 41-35.

However, to start the second half, the Cougars went on a 17-0 run, taking a 52-41 lead. 

During this time, they made five 3-pointers.

“We didn’t come out with a great mindset,” Senderoff said. “They got out in transition, and we didn’t get to shooters.”

The Flashes responded by making four of its next five shots, cutting the deficit to 54-52.

“Teams will go on runs throughout the game, junior guard Jalen Sullinger said. “It’s how you respond. And I think we responded the right way.”

There were three lead changes during the second half, and the game was tied four times.

Kent State junior guard Jalen Sullinger looks to drive against Charleston guard Reyne Smith during their game on Nov. 26, 2023 (Cadie Pierce)

The Cougars would go on a 12-4 run, scoring all points from the free throw line or in the paint, taking a 66-56 lead with nine minutes remaining in the game. 

Sullinger and KSU took its second lead of the second half as he scored eight of his game-high 23 points. 

The score was now 73-71.

However, to close the game, Charleston did not miss a shot, going 4-of-4 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. 

During this time, Kent State made one basket and three shots from the charity stripe. 

“They made every big play that a good team makes,” Senderoff said. “And unfortunately, we didn’t make the ones we needed to, so we’ll need to learn from it and get better as we move forward.”

Redshirt junior VonCameron Davis led KSU’s bench, scoring a season-high 19 points. 

“Just being ready when coach puts me in,” he said. “Knowing my worth to the team and just playing hard and doing what I need to do.”

Over the last three games, Kent State has averaged 29 points from its bench. On Sunday, the bench scored 30. 

“We have to get better as a team,” Senderoff said. “It’s not about the bench or the starters or this or that we have to play better, and that’s the bottom line.”

As a team, KSU shot 50%, and Charleston shot 44.6%.

The Cougars converted on 13 shots from behind the arc – the Flashes had six. 

“They’ve got great shooters that just weren’t making shots early in the year,” Senderoff said.

“But the fact that they shot 32 threes is a problem.”

Coming into the game, KSU opponents have averaged nearly 26 three-point attempts per game.

Charleston forward Frankie Policelli lays up the ball against Kent State graduate forward Chris Payton Jr. during their Nov. 26, 2023 game. (Cadie Pierce)

Up Next

The Flashes will remain home, taking on Shawnee State University at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Bears come into the contest 3-3, averaging 75 points per game. 

After losing its opening game 96-40 to Morehead State, all SSU’s games have been decided by nine or fewer points. 

KSU is 1-3 in games decided by nine or fewer points. 

The Bears attempt 20 three-pointers a game as a team, converting on seven. 

Shawnee State has averaged 12 turnovers per game, and the Flashes force 18. 

Davis hopes this shows the team “how to win.”

“We’ve had a couple of tough losses this season,” he said. “But we have to find a way to toughen games out, and hopefully, we can make those tough plays play in the next game.”

Senderoff said these early games are lessons when conference play begins Jan. 2. 

“I don’t have a crystal ball and can’t tell you how we’re going to play in January,” he said. “But if we learn from these things, then it’ll help us, and if we’re making the same mistakes in January and February we’re making today, then that’s a problem.

“So it’s my job, and our staff’s job, to teach the guys what they need to learn, and it’s our player’s job to learn it and then go out and execute.”

Jacob Shondel is sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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About the Contributors
Jacob Shondel, Sports Editor
Jacob is a senior journalism major. He enjoys writing about sports and has previously covered women’s lacrosse and soccer. Contact him at [email protected].
Cadie Pierce, Photographer
Cadie Pierce (she/they) is a Senior Integrative Studies major and Photojournalism minor and staff photographer for KentWired/Kent Stater. Cadie can be reached at [email protected].

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