Hall, Kent State demolish Delta Devils in home opener

Freshman guard Mitch Peterson of the Kent State men’s basketball team jumps through the Mississippi Valley State University defense on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 at the M.A.C. Center.

Nick Buzzelli

Heading into the final media timeout of the first half of Wednesday’s home opener, Kent State held a 1-point lead over visiting Mississippi Valley State University.

Earlier in the game, the Flashes had led by as many as 10 points. However, the scrappy Delta Devils had fought their way back into the game courtesy of foul shots and easy baskets in the paint.

But during that timeout, head coach Rob Senderoff let his captain, Jimmy Hall, do all of the talking. The redshirt senior then huddled around his teammates near the Kent State bench and told them to focus on getting stops — since they weren’t defending the Kent State way.

Once play resumed, Hall scored seven consecutive points – three free throws, a jumper shot and a layup – and freshman guard Mitch Peterson hit a jump shot from the wing to put the Flashes up 10 heading into the locker room, en route to a 93-63 blowout win in front of a crowd of 2,524 in the M.A.C. Center.

“It was more what the guys in the huddle said: ‘We got to finish up the half, last three minutes, get consecutive stops.’ And that’s what we did. We finished off the half defensively really strong,” Senderoff said after the game. “We had made a couple poor decisions defensively that led to them getting easy baskets, fouling away from the basket, trying to get a steal, which led to three’s.”

Unlike the second half of Saturday’s season-opener against Cleveland State University in which the Flashes surrendered a 13-point halftime lead and allowed the Vikings to force overtime, Kent State sustained momentum during the final 20 minutes of play.

Hall began the second half by converting an old-fashioned three-point play to give the Flashes a 13-point advantage. Senior Deon Edwin’s layup 43 seconds later extended Kent State’s 13-0 run.

In a span of three minutes, the Flashes cushioned their lead from 14 to 27 points, and easily cruised to the win, allowing senior walk-on Jon Flemming to enter the game with 2:04 remaining.

“Coach has been telling me a lot, ‘Don’t really worry about the offense; try to worry about swinging the ball and just playing the right way,’” said Hall, who finished with 23 points on a 7-12 performance from the field. “It’s amazing how you start playing better.”

Although Hall was consistently being doubled in the post throughout the game, he was able to find sophomore Jalen Avery open on the wing, who hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and tallied nine points and two assists in 21 minutes on the court.

“Coming from last year to this year, I knew I had to be more confident in myself for us to be able to win as a team,” he said. “We definitely needed leadership at the point guard role so I just had to step up and just be confident in myself and continue to play hard.”

Kent State hosts local Division III opponent Hiram College Friday night before playing South Dakota University and two other teams to be determined in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida, from Nov. 21-23.

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