Flashes dismantle SIU in impressive wire-to-wire win


Senior Guard Kris Brewer dribbles the ball against Southern Illinois University in the M.A.C. Center on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. The Flashes won, 74-51.

Richie Mulhall

Box Score

It was just one of those night for the Kent State basketball team.

Not the kind of night the Flashes had against Malone University on Tuesday, in which the team was forced to fight from behind and overcome an eight-point deficit in the first half to pull out a narrow victory.

It was the good kind of night; the kind when Kris Brewer, Derek Jackson and Devareaux Manley are sinking 3-pointers and Jimmy Hall is owning the post.

That kind of night.

Four Kent State players scored in double-figures Friday night as Kent State opened up the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic with a dominant 74-51 victory over Southern Illinois.

“I’m proud of how we responded to Tuesday night’s, and it’s get to see everyone who stepped on the floor helped us in a positive way,” Senderoff said. “We played about as good as we could play, maybe as good as we’ve played in three years. Our team defense was great, our unselfishness on the offensive end was great. This is how we have to play for us to be successful.”

To any skeptics who nearly entered panic mode after Kent State narrowly defeated Malone on Tuesday, the Flashes extinguished some of those doubts and made a major statement in their 23-point victory.

“It’s good to see, especially coming off a game where I would say – with no disrespect to Malone, but we’re not supposed to be down eight to a Division II team at halftime, so it’s good to see us respond the way we did,” Senderoff said.

First-half versatility

The Flashes (3-0) looked comfortable in all sectors of the court in the first half of Friday night’s matchup. On paper, whether it was behind the arc or in the post, Kent State established firm control of all facets of the game.

The Flashes began the game working the ball inside, feeding the ball to redshirt sophomore forward Jimmy Hall.

Hall, who has made an immediate impact as the Flashes’ interior anchor, asserted himself in the post and scored six points in a row for the Flashes, providing his team with an early 9-3 lead with the help of a Craig Brown 3-pointer.

Once Kent State asserted commanded the paint and got out to a big lead, the offensive attack expanded to the outside as the Flashes began to kick the ball to the parameter and launch the three ball.

Graduate student Craig Brown drained the first three for the Flashes, and seniors Kris Brewer and Devareaux Manley followed suit with a pair of threes of their own.

A put-back throwdown by sophomore Marquiez Lawrence fired the team up and extended Kent State’s lead to eight, the team’s largest of the night so far. Later on in the half, a 3-pointer by redshirt senior Derek Jackson followed by a Brewer steal and subsequent layup initiated a 9-0 run and gave the Flashes a 24-11 lead, their biggest lead of the half.

The team would go on a second scoring run later in the half led by Jackson, who gave five points to 7-0 onslaught.

Hall’s 12 points and Jackson’s 50 percent shooting from beyond the arc carried the Flashes through the first half and provided Kent State with a commanding 43-28 half heading into the intermission.

According to the Kent State men’s basketball team’s Twitter, Hall picked up where he left off in Malone, entering double-figured scoring for his third straight game of the season.

“I just wanted to be aggressive and attack every ball, and that’s what we practice,” Hall said about crashing the glass. “It’s always important to start the game like we were supposed to play, so we just have to start the game on a positive note.”

Brewer’s second half

The first half was all Hall, but the second half belonged to Brewer, who paced the Flashes to a 24-point lead at one point– the team’s largest margin of advantage– with 11 second-half points.

Kent State began the second half a little more sluggish than the first, but still managed to maintain at least an 11-point lead for the entire second half.

In all honesty, the Flashes played well from start to finish, building a double-digit lead early in the first half and never allowing Southern Illinois to get within striking distance. In fact, the Salukis couldn’t break the Flashes’ 11-point lead, meaning that Kent State kept at least an 11-point throughout the majority of the game.

The best offense

Sometimes a team’s best offense really is its defense.

In addition to Brewer’s leadership and Hall’s 16 points, Kent State’s defense also aided the cause and helped the Flashes mount double-digit halftime lead.

The defense forced SIU to commit 17 total turnovers, which translated into 20 points off turnovers for the Flashes. To put that in perspective, the defense accounted for about 37 percent of Kent State’s 43 first-half points. The Salukis only managed nine points off turnovers.

Jackson also made life difficult for Anthony Beane, SIU’s star player who averages 23 points per game for the Salukis. Jackson guarded Beane and frustrated him all night long, limiting him to just 12 points – 11 under his early season average.

Jackson said the team studied film of plays Southern Illinois liked to run, scouted them and formulated a defensive game plan to shut them down, something the Flashes failed to do Tuesday against Malone.

“We were tuned in to the game plan,” Jackson said. “Everyone was focused, so we were able to get some steals off the things we knew. We were playing good team defense, everybody was talking.”

Raining threes

The Flashes didn’t attempt nearly as many three-point shots as they are notoriously known for doing, but they did shoot 57.1 percent from three-point range (8-of-14 shooting)

Brewer was spotless from beyond the arc, shooting 3 for 3 from the parameter, and Manley, Jackson and Brown each hit two threes apiece.

“As far as the guards, I feel like we controlled the game better ,” Jackson said. “We held our own we controlled the ball, (Brewer) did a good job. We did a good job on (SIU). We had a better mindset for today, everyone was tuned in tonight.”

Even junior Chris Ortiz, who’s not considered a stereotypical three-point marksman by any means, netted a three of his own to add to the plethora of 3-pointers made.

“It was a good mix in terms of our percentage of shots,” Senderoff said. “We’re not shooting 35- of-51 shots from three, and with our team last year there might have been times where it would be 27 out of 51.”

Spreading the love

Senderoff commended his team for working as a unit and spreading the ball around to maintain a large lead and execute a well-balanced offensive attack.

Kent State’s bench also outscored SIU’s bench, 23-9, a statistic that proved to be yet another difference maker in the game.

“I thought everyone who stepped on the floor contributed in some way, shape or form,” Senderoff said.

Picking up the pace

Every time the Flashes quickened the pace and bolted down the court, Southern Illinois continued to fall behind.

The Flashes had a 10-0 fast-break-points differential compared to the Salukis, as Southern Illinois couldn’t seem to get out in transition to keep up with the Flashes.

At times Southern Illinois whittled down Kent State’s lead to as little as 11 but couldn’t break through the 11-point deficit to make a run at a comeback.

The defense did not allow the lead to dissolve into single digits and kept the Salukis’ offense at bay.

“When we had a lead and built up a lead, we didn’t let it get to 10 or let it get to eight, or let it get to six – our guys did a great job continuing to defend,” Senderoff said.

What the victory means

The Flashes’ one-sided win further pushes the point Senderoff emphasized earlier in the season. Kent State has all the right tools and pieces to be a successful MAC basketball team.

It has the depth. It has the size. It has the quickness. It has the athleticism. What it lacks at time, though, is consistency, a trait Senderoff hopes the team will gain as the season progresses.

This victory proves what Senderoff clamored for before the season even began. A well-balanced offense, mixed with skilled shooting and a strong inside presence, can bring success. The only question that remains is will the Flashes be able to keep that same energy up for the rest of the season, night in and night out?

Only time will tell. Because guys like Hall and Brown have only been playing games with the team for two weeks now, Tuesday’s win might just be a small sample of what’s to come.

“To me, it’s more continuing to do it every night,” Senderoff said of his team’s effort. “It’s not easy to sustain that energy level every single night, but that’s what we have to do to win.”

As part of the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic, the Flashes will rest up Friday night and get ready to take on the University of Illinois – Chicago Saturday inside the M.A.C. Center. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].