Men’s basketball falls to Akron in conference opener

After nearly two weeks of cancellations due to COVID-19, the Kent State men’s basketball team finally took the hardwood in their conference opener against rival Akron. Despite an offensive explosion and impressive defensive performance in the first half, Kent fell to Akron 66-62. 

On New Years Eve it was announced that Kent was set to play Akron on the road on New Years Day, and their January 2nd game at Easten Michigan will be postponed. The flashes started the first half on a 10-0 run and were dominant on both sides of the ball. They held Akron to under ten points for the first 8:48 of the contest. 

This was the first taste of Mid-American Conference basketball for Kent senior transfers Michael Nuga and Justyn Hamilton and they had back to back buckets respectively in the first half, and contributed enormously to the defensive attack head coach Rob Senderoff and his staff orchestrated. Nuga finished the game with 19 points and Hamilton had six rebounds and six points. 

Senior Danny Pippen led the team in scoring in the first half with 10 points and was able to get to the line more than once. The Flashes led at the half 33-24. 

Akron picked up the pace dramatically in the second half showing why they have the highest scoring offense in the MAC. Despite having a worse field goal percentage then the Flashes, the Zips were led by the defending MAC player of the year senior Loren Cristian Jackson who finished with 31 pts. 

Akron sophomore Enrique Freeman grabbed  nine rebounds including a game saving defensive one with 37.8 left with the score Akron 61 Kent St 60. He went to the line and made two free throws to increase the lead to three. With 29 seconds left, Kent sophomore Giovanni Santiago had a wide open three to tie the game, but missed.

The Flashes will play Toledo at home Tuesday. Toledo is coming off a win against Northern Illinois, and is at Western Michigan today at 2 p.m. Tip-off for the Kent-Toledo game is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Dante Centofanti is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]