Six Flashes in double-figures in win over NAIA’s Shawnee State

Kent+State+junior+guard+C.J.+Williamson+attempts+a+dunk+during+the+Flashes+game+against+Shawnee+State+on+Nov.+13%2C+2018.+Kent+State+won+the+game%2C+90-69.

Kent State junior guard C.J. Williamson attempts a dunk during the Flashes’ game against Shawnee State on Nov. 13, 2018. Kent State won the game, 90-69.

Cameron Hoover

Kent State used a balanced scoring attack and dominant second half to beat visiting NAIA opponent Shawnee State, 90-69, on Tuesday.

But what appeared before the game to be an easy win for the Flashes (2-0) turned out to be anything but. In fact, Shawnee State, whose record will remain at 3-0 as the contest was an exhibition for the Bears, led for most of the first half.

The Bears started the game on a 9-2 run, and the Flashes responded with an 8-0 run to give them a 10-9 advantage with 13:50 left in the first half. After that, though, Kent State didn’t lead again until a free throw from Anthony Roberts gave the Flashes a one-point advantage nine minutes later.

The Flashes led at halftime, 43-37, but they allowed Shawnee State to shoot 44.1 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from the 3-point line.

“I don’t know, for whatever reason, but we weren’t quite as locked in at the beginning of the game as we needed to be,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “We dug ourselves a hole. … It took us a while to get it going, and once we did, I think we played a lot better, but we still didn’t get as many stops in a row as I would’ve liked.”

After halftime though, the Flashes kicked it into another gear, outscoring the Bears, 47-32, in the last 20 minutes. Much of the team’s second-half scoring output came on the fast break, a category Kent State dominated, 31-12.

“I thought we came into the game kind of relaxed,” Kent State point guard Jalen Avery said. “Going into the half, we came together and we talked in the locker room. We knew what we’d have to do to pull a win out.”

Avery led the Flashes for the second time in as many games this season with 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including 3-for-6 from the 3-point line. He also added a team-high 5 assists. Despite averaging 20 points per game through the team’s first two contests, Avery said he isn’t necessarily looking to score more.

“Just as a leader, every game I come into, my ultimate goal is just to win,” he said. “With (Jaylin Walker) being out, I just have to be more aggressive. I don’t want to get more shots; I just want to do more of whatever I need to do for my team to win.”

Another standout performer for Kent State was Philip Whittington, who scored 11 points and ripped down 13 rebounds, including 6 offensive, in 17 minutes for his first double-double as a member of the Flashes.

“He’s a huge key to our team,” Senderoff said, “as much on the glass as anything else. He’s our best rebounder without question. … In the second half, he started significantly better. A double-double in his second game bodes well for us. He’s got to continue to do that.”

Four other Kent State players finished in double-digits. Antonio Williams, who added 7 rebounds, and BJ Duling each finished with 12 points. Senior Akiean Frederick added 11 points, and Mitch Peterson made 4 of his 5 shots, including both 3-point attempts, for 10 points.

The Flashes outrebounded Shawnee State, 43-30, including 19 offensive boards, created 18 Bears turnovers and poured in 50 points in the paint.

Sophomore Gavin Brown led the Bears with 15 points, all on 3-pointers, and EJ Onu, a product of Richmond Heights High School in Cleveland, added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

The Flashes return to the court at 7 p.m. Friday at the M.A.C. Center to host Liberty University. The Flames are 2-0 to start the season after ending last year’s campaign in heartbreak, falling to Radford on a 3-point buzzer-beater in the Big South championship game.

Cameron Hoover is a senior reporter. Contact him at [email protected]