The Kent State men’s basketball team’s goal heading into the 2014-2015 season was to establish a sturdier inside presence in order to score more points in the paint.
That’s one of the reasons why coach Rob Senderoff recruited redshirt sophomore Jimmy Hall two seasons.
Now, after being forced to wait a full season of eligibility before seeing action in a blue and gold uniform, Hall finally got the chance to play as a Flash, and his debut didn’t disappoint.
Hall scored 12 of his team-leading 14 points Saturday night to lead the Flashes to a 69-61 victory over the Youngstown State University Penguins.
Living by the three
Kent State men’s basketball coach Rob Senderoff and company said before the season began that the team would rely less on the three and more on an inside presence offensively this upcoming season.
The Flashes tried to stick to that same game plan in their season opener Saturday night, but sometimes past instincts kick in and take over in order to get things going.
When juniors Hall, Khaliq Spicer and Chris Ortiz – Kent State’s big men – ran into early foul trouble in the first half, the Flashes turned to the three ball to build a 35-33 lead by halfitme
The Penguins free-throw shooting also helped bail the Flashes escape foul trouble with minimal damage, as Youngstown State only capitalized on 13 free throws in 26 trips to the line.
The Flashes also caught a break in the second half when the Penguins fell into some foul trouble of their own.
Six-foot-10 center Bobby Hain, who nagged the Flashes on the boards in the first half with 11 points, was flagged with his fourth foul in opening minutes of the second half, forcing the Youngstown State coaching staff to bench him for much of the second half.
Hain concluded the night with 17 points and five rebounds, but was limited to playing just five minutes of the 20-minute second half.
Kent State junior forward Chris Ortiz ejected for a flagrant 2 foul with 1:28 remaining in the second half.
Because Spicer and Hall were forced to take a seat with two fouls apiece, the Flashes needed to rely more heavily on their parameter game than Senderoff and the squad had originally intended.
Kent State only had 10 points in the paint compared to the Penguins’ 20 in the first half but scored 18 of its 35 first-half points from beyond the arc. The team shot 6 of 12 – or 50 percent – from three, four of which came from junior Devareaux Manley’s fingertips.
Manley came off the bench and heated up quickly, providing the Flashes with the most energy on a 12-point, 4-of-6 shooting effort. He was also 4 for 6 from beyond the arc, as all six of his shot attempts were from three-point range.
Kent State’s bench gave the team a lift when it needed it most, especially since four Flashes had at least two fouls and the team racked up a total of 13 fouls in the first half alone.
Youngstown State won the battle of the boards by a narrow 37-36 margin, but Kent State outscored the Penguins 26-5 off of the bench.
A different second half
Oftentimes in MAC basketball, the big postmen are the difference makers and can sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing a game.
Such was the case with Kent State’s frontcourt in the second half of Saturday’s game.
The offense that launched 12 3-pointers in the first half settled down and only attempted three threes in the second half. Youngstown State might have outscored Kent State in the paint, 34-30, but the Flashes’ second-half stand inside helped them pull away and notch a W in the win column.
Kent State scored 20 points in the paint in the second half, doubling their first-half when only nine of the team’s 21 shots were attempted inside the arc.
The Flashes pounded the ball inside more and fed it to Spicer, Ortiz and Hall, something they had a difficult time doing in the first half due to foul troubles.
Hall, who was virtually shut down offensively in the first half, exploded and led the Flashes with 11 second-half points on 5-of-7 shooting effort. Spicer was right behind his teammate with six points.
Once Kent State worked the ball in the paint, it also opened up other shots on the court as well.
Senior point guard Kris Brewer finally found his touch, as he tallied 10 points in second half compared to the two points he could only muster in the first.
“We talked a lot at halftime about how we needed to go inside more in the second half,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “I thought Jimmy was a difference in the second half. He showed us some of the things he is going to give us in the post this season. Khaliq and Chris also made some big plays down the stretch on both ends of the floor.”
Once Kent State built up a substantial 11-point lead with just a minute and a half left to play, the Flashes coasted to their first victory of the season.
Kent State will return to the M.A.C. Center Tuesday, Nov. 18 to take on Malone University in the Flashes’ home opener. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.
The Pioneers (0-2) opened up their 2014-2015 men’s basketball season at the GLVC/GLIAC Challenge in Romeoville, Illinois this weekend and lost both season-opening games.
Malone dropped its second contest of the season Saturday to Lewis University, 92-62, after the Flyers outscored Malone, 44-27 in the second half.
Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected]