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PREVIEW: Men’s basketball v. TSDTR

DeArrius Gleaves
Kent State students celebrate as the men’s basketball team scores during the final half of the game against Akron on Jan. 19, 2024.

When the Kent State men’s basketball team takes the court against Mid-American Conference leader Akron, it will look to avenge its 77-71 loss Jan. 19. 

All-time, the Flashes (13-13, 6-7 MAC) lead the series 83-81; however, since coach Rob Senderoff took over, they are 13-18. 

Since 2007, the two programs have met in the MAC Tournament nine times, and KSU is 3-6. 

The 166th matchup will take place in James A. Rhodes Arena Friday at 6 p.m.

Under Senderoff, Kent State is 3-9 on the road against Akron.

Last time out

In the first KSU v. UA matchup, senior forward Enrique Freeman recorded 23 points, eight rebounds, and a season-high five blocks for Akron. 

Akron’s senior guard Ali Ali added 23 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three and 10-for-11 at the free throw line.

For Kent State, redshirt senior guard Giovanni Santiago led the team with 16 points, and graduate student forward Tyem Freeman added 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from behind the arc.

The Zips started the game on a 17-4 scoring run, and KSU shot 26% from the field during the first half. 

With 1:46 remaining in the game, the Flashes cut the lead to 70-67; however, Akron connected on five free throws to close out the game.

The inside scoop

The Zips (19-7, 11-2 MAC) are led by Freeman and Ali. 

Freeman is ranked first in the nation in rebounding (13) per game and is tied for first in double-doubles (23).

After spending the first three years of his collegiate career at Akron, Ali transferred to Butler last season before returning to the Zips for his final year. 

The preseason First-Team All-MAC guard is averaging a career-high 15.6 points. 

The Zips come into the contest with the No. 1 defense in the MAC (64 points allowed), and KSU is 1-7 when scoring less than 70 points.

Akron has the No. 1 three-point defense (30%) in the conference – KSU has made the third most threes in the MAC (215).

Kent State has three players averaging 12 or more points: sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger (14), redshirt junior forward VonCameron Davis (13), and graduate student forward Chris Payton Jr. (12). 

Santiago is second in the MAC with a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio and fourth in assists (107).

KSU has forced the most turnovers (358) in the conference and averages 12 a game.

Tournament hopes

The Zips will look to maintain their position as the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament, beginning March 14 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

The Flashes, who were projected to finish third in the preseason poll, currently sit in a three-way tie for sixth with Miami (12-14, 6-7 MAC) and Western Michigan (9-17, 6-7 MAC). 

Since KSU has the better overall record, it currently holds the sixth position.

The top eight teams will qualify for the tournament. 

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

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About the Contributor
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].

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