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Payton Jr.’s career day leads men’s basketball past visiting Cleveland State

Sara House
Grad student, Chris Payton Jr., goes in for the dunk in the game against Cleveland State on Dec. 9, 2023.

Graduate student forward Chris Payton Jr. scored 18 points and snagged a career-high 20 rebounds to lead Kent State men’s basketball to an 83-77 win over Cleveland State on Saturday. 

“Before every game during the national anthem, I’ll close my eyes and think about two or three things I have to do,” Payton said. “Today, one of those things was rebounding.”

The Flashes improved to 7-3, while the Vikings dropped to 6-5.

In the first half, Kent State dominated inside the paint along with rebounding to build a 46-28 halftime lead.

Cli’Ron Hornbeak, Kent State junior, defends against Cleveland State on Dec. 9, 2023. (Sara House)

Juniors Cli’Ron Hornbeak and Jalen Sullinger lead the scoring in the half each scoring 11 points. The Flashes shot a remarkable 59% from the field and 50% from behind the arc – the Vikings shot 44% from the field and 20% from three-point range.

“We played very well in the first half and still have a lot of things that we can get better at,” coach Rob Senderoff said. 

In the second half, the Vikings came out with aggression and made a push to get back in the game. 

They made six threes in the half, and after going 0-for-6 from the free throw line, they converted on 7-12. 

The Flashes withstood attempted runs behind strong guard play. 

Redshirt senior guard Giovanni Santiago scored 11 points and contributed two assists. 

Payton’s frontcourt mate Hornbeak also continued his excellence in the second half, shooting a perfect 7-7 from the field for 15 points along with six rebounds.

“I’ve worked on my post-game a lot, but the most important thing is confidence,” Hornbeak said. “As long as I’m playing with confidence, I feel like I can do anything on the basketball court.” 

Kent State will have 12 days off before a trip out west to take on Oregon (6-2) on Dec. 21.

The Ducks are 4-0 at home and have held three teams under 70 points.

Giovanni Santiago, redshirt senior, is going in for a layup against Cleveland State player Drew Lowder on Dec. 9, 2023. (Sara House)

“We have a 12-game body of work, so we know the things we need to improve upon,” Senderoff said. “We as coaches will focus on and try to make sure our players see those things.”

Matthew Franos is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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