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Men’s basketball takes back home-court advantage

Debonaire Wright
Chris Payton Jr. lands a dunk late in the game against Western Michigan on Feb. 6, 2024.
Golden Flashes’ highlights from the rivalry basketball game against Western Michigan Tuesday night.

Kent State men’s basketball team had lost four home games in a row before beating Western Michigan 63-61 in the M.A.C. Center.

“It’s great to get a win here; we’ve played really well on the road but have really struggled here,” coach Rob Senderoff said. “Proud of the whole team for finding a way to get this win.”

In the first half, both teams got off to a slow start as the score stood 10-9 Broncos (8-15, 5-6) after ten minutes. Senior forward VonCameron Davis scored seven of his nine first-half points at the halfway point.

“I was getting open looks, and my teammates were definitely finding me,” Davis said.

(Redshirt Junior) VonCameron Davis fights through
Western Michigan defenders. (Debonaire wright)

Junior guard Jalen Sullinger then took over for the next ten minutes scoring 11 in the first half. 

The Flashes (12-11, 5-6) continued to play tough defense, creating five steals and forcing seven turnovers overall, despite Western Michigan snagging seven offensive rebounds. 

“We have to rebound the basketball, and that’s honestly where a lot of their offense was coming from,” Davis said.

Graduate student Chris Payton hit a buzzer-beating pull-up jumper to give Kent State a 27-25 lead heading into the locker room. Payton had two points and three rebounds in the half.

Both teams shot 37% in the half, but the Flashes were 3-of-12 from three while the Broncos were 0-of-9.

Both teams came into the contest averaging eight three-point baskets per game.

In the second half, Payton came out aggressive to score nine points in the first eleven minutes to lead Kent State to a 46-44 lead.

#4 (Center) Chris Payton Jr. makes a shot with time expiring sending the game to halftime Tuesday night. (Debonaire Wright)

“I was kinda rushing in the first half. I got to where I needed to get, but I wasn’t doing the right things,” Payton said. “Just things I know I shouldn’t be doing, obviously corrected that in the second half.”

The Flashes started to take control after an and-one from Sullinger and a rim-rocking dunk from Payton gave them a 55-46 lead with seven minutes remaining.

“The dunks get me going; I try not to really lay the ball up in practice,” Payton said. “When there are people around cheering for you, it really gives you a boost.”

The Broncos weren’t done yet as they went on 7-0 of their own to bring the game to 55-53 with three and a half minutes remaining. 

Kent State had a chance to close out the game up 63-61 with 34 seconds remaining but were stopped. 

Western Michigan had a chance to tie or win the game with four seconds left but were unable to get a shot off. 

“They had the ball and a chance to tie or win it, and for us to be able to defend them and not even be able to get a shot up is an awesome way to end the game,” Senderoff said.

Davis led the Flashes with 19 points, while Payton added 17 and Sullinger finished with 16.

(#13 Junior) Jalen Sullinger pushing the ball in transition. (Debonaire Wright)

Kent State also shot 90% from the free-throw line.

Up next, Kent State will travel to Alabama for a non-conference game against Troy Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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

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About the Contributor
Michael Neenan, Reporter
Michael Neenan is a sophomore journalism major who enjoys two things: writing and sports. Contact him at [email protected]

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