Kent State rolls to second consecutive lopsided win

Freshman guard Mitch Peterson shoots the layup after gathering the offensive rebound against Grambling State University on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 at the M.A.C. Center. Kent State won, 86-57.

Nick Buzzelli

With Kent State holding a 17-point advantage early in the second half against Niagara University, senior Jimmy Hall was charged with a foul, his third of the game, while battling for a loose ball on the defensive end.

On the ensuing possession, after the Purple Eagles collected six consecutive offensive rebounds, Hall was once again whistled for a foul, prompting head coach Rob Senderoff to take his leading scorer and star player out of the game.

Realizing his team was without its captain, sophomore Adonis De La Rosa understood that he had to step up in Hall’s absence and, as a result, the sophomore center netted nine of his 13 points and six of his eleven rebounds in the final 20 minutes of play en route to Kent State’s (6-3) 100-72 blowout win over Niagara (2-7) Wednesday night at the M.A.C. Center.

“I know Jimmy’s our leader and he picked up four quick ones and I know I had to step up and coach (Senderoff) subbed me in for him and I knew I had to pick up the slack,” said De La Rosa, who’s in his first season with the program. “So far, I think this was my best game.”

Despite beginning the first nine minutes of the contest with what Senderoff said was “as good as we can do defensively,” by holding Niagara to 1-of-15 shooting for four points, Kent State’s defense softened after that point. The team enabled the Purple Eagles to score 24 points during the final 9:50 of the first half to cut the deficit to 15 at halftime.

“Our defensive mindset was great to start the game. There’s a couple things we saw that we knew we had to guard well, certain actions. And the first 10 minutes of the game was as good as we could do defensively,” said Senderoff, who’s in his seventh season as head coach. “I didn’t think the last 10 minutes of the first half was great but, at the end of the day, if you can hold a team to 36 percent shooting, that’s pretty good.”

Niagara used a 10-0, capped off by a Shane Gatling jump shot, to cut the deficit to 12. But Kent State’s offensive bombardment continued during the game’s final 11:47, scoring 36 points during that stretch to secure the win and marking the first time since 2003 that the Flashes scored 100 or more points twice in a season.

While Kent State has dominated its opponents at home this season — winning all four games by an average of 35.8 points — Senderoff said he doesn’t anticipate that Saturday’s game against New Jersey Institute of Technology will be as easy as the wins over Grambling State and Niagara were.

“I think each of these games … becomes harder. As we go on in this month, I think each game will be tougher than the last game,” he said. “We’ve played well the last two nights. By no stretch is that a sure that we’re going to play well Saturday. We just have to come with the right mindset, which I think we have.”

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]