Flashes stun Ohio with upset win in Athens

Richard Mulhall

“Anybody can beat anyone on any given night,” Kent State men’s basketball head coach said Saturday night after the Flashes’ away game against Ohio.

The team proved its coach right.

After two consecutive losses to Buffalo and Bowling Green last week, the Flashes (16-13, 7-9 MAC) went into enemy territory and routed the Bobcats (19-10, 9-7 MAC) 75-61 to cap a crucial, underdog victory as Kent State’s regular season continues to wind down.

Kent State buckled down on the defensive side of the ball and tamed the Bobcats’ efforts to score.

The Flashes held Ohio to 34.5 percent shooting from the field and limited them to just 15 points from beyond the arc. Ohio shot 5-of-21 from three-point range and struggled with the long ball all night long, thanks to the Flashes’ impervious defense.

Senderoff said he has seen much better games from Ohio in the past, but commended his defense nonetheless for keeping the Bobcats off the scoreboard for ample amounts of time.

“They’re a much better offensive team than they showed today,” Senderoff said about Ohio. “They struggled to shoot the ball. I’m sure some of that was them but some of it was our defensive effort.”

One of the keys to the success of Kent State’s defensive scheme was stopping star Ohio guard Nick Kellog, who ranks sixth in the MAC in scoring.

According to MAC Sports, he averages 15 points per game, but Saturday night, he came nowhere near that number.

The Flashes completely shut Kellog down and limited him to just two points on a 0-6 shooting effort from the field in the senior’s final home game with the Bobcats.

Like the entire Bobcats’ squad, Kellog tried to use Ohio’s Senior Night as motivation to drive his team to its 12th home win of the season, but the Flashes spoiled Kellog’s best-laid plans and Ohio Senior Night.

“In the first game, Nick Kellogg scored a lot of points and was able to get out in transition,” Sendeorff said. “He’s a great player. Derek Jackson is our best defender and he did a great job on [Kellog] today. If you do a good job on Kellogg, it really helps your team defense.”

Senderoff said “defensively is where [Jackson] played the best,” but he did more for the team than just defend well.

Jackson posted 16 points and shot 2-3 from three-point range. Junior guards Devareaux Manley and Kris Brewer added their fair share to the mix, too, by chipping in 17 and 12 points respectively.

Fifteen of Manley’s 17 came from beyond the arc as he shot a near-perfect 5-6 from deep range.

The Flashes’ overall 9-for-15 three-point shooting performance, combined with their valiant defensive stands, was enough to prevent the Bobcats from gaining any momentum throughout the contest.

“We’re going to shoot a lot of threes,” Senderoff said. “That’s kind of the makeup of our team. When we don’t make them, we struggle. Today we made them. The key for us is trying to get good ones, and for the most part, I thought we took good ones as opposed to contested ones.”

The Flashes did all the little things in both halves of the game to secure Saturday’s win. They shot the ball well, sank most of their threes and drained their free throw shots when they really counted — Kent State hit 22 of its 25 foul shots in an 88 percent performance from the line — and matched Ohio with 20 points in the paint.

 “We moved the ball well, shot good shots and we didn’t have any lapses on defense or any prolonged periods on offense that we weren’t getting good shots, so when you did those things, you give yourself a chance to score, and I thought we did that well, and I think it made a difference in the outcome for us.”

Kent State jumped out to an early lead in the first half of Saturday’s contest and took a commanding 36-24 lead into the intermission. After the break, the Flashes did not falter.

Senderoff said Kent State’s win against a MAC team Ohio that is well over the .500 mark in regard to overall season record definitely serves as a confidence booster as the team gears up for the start of the MAC Tournament one week from Monday.

Senderoff said Saturday’s win proves that although the Flashes might appear down at times, they are most certainly not out.

“It’s an important win for us as we head into March,” Senderoff said. “We want to try to play well, and it was a good performance on the defensive and the offensive end. [The win] is a statement to ourselves that we’re going to continue to compete and continue to fight and battle all the way through.”

The Flashes will return home for their own Senior Night this Wednesday at 7 p.m. to host the Miami Redhawks (11-16, 7-9 MAC) in Kent State’s final home game of the season.

Contact Richard Mulhall at [email protected].