Men’s basketball caps weekend with win against Niagara


Kent State senior forward Melvin Tabb attempts a layup during Saturdays game on November 23. The game against Niagara completed the Flashes’ sweep of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. They won the game 102-97. Photo by Melanie Nesteruk.

Tim Dorst

The Kent State men’s basketball team faced a marathon of weekend games Friday and Saturday against University of South Carolina Upstate and Niagara University, respectively.

But the busy schedule didn’t hold the Flashes down.

After winning the first two legs of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, the Flashes (6-1) won their third game in as many days, defeating the Niagara Purple Eagles 102-97 Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center. Saturday’s win pushed the Flashes’ winning streak to four games.

In a tournament-style run of games, Kent State came away with a combination of convincing wins and close contests. Coach Rob Senderoff said the Flashes didn’t play great Saturday but did well enough to beat a hungry Niagara team.

“(Niagara) is a team that won a conference title last year,” Senderoff said. “In the first half, it seemed like they beat us to every loose ball. I thought in the second half we did a lot better job in stretches that gave us the lead. Then at the end, we made a couple boneheaded mistakes that let them get back in the game.”

The Flashes scored a season-high in points behind five players in double figures, led by senior Mark Henniger with 20 points. Sophomore guard K. K. Simmons scored 18 points off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting.

After Kent State led 44-43 at halftime, Niagara began to go on a run and took a brief lead three minutes into the second half. Simmons hit a mid-range jumpshot to cut the deficit to 1 point before hitting a 3-pointer on the fastbreak to give his team the lead again.

In his first season with Kent State, Simmons said he’s happy that we can get onto the court and make his mark early in the year.

“I saw that our team got in a hole for a second, and I just felt like that was my time to try to step up and be more aggressive,” Simmons said. “Sitting out last year, it kind of takes a little time getting back into it. So I’m just happy to be playing basketball and to show what I can do.”

Senderoff said he felt Simmons played aggressively but more under control than in previous outings.

“I think sometimes he tries to force things a little too much and sometimes he doesn’t get a ton of opportunity,” Senderoff said. “He still didn’t play a ton of minutes, but he was really ultra productive.”

The Flashes’ lead grew to 12 later in the half behind solid post play from Henniger and senior forward Khaliq Spicer, who finished with 8 points off the bench.

Scoring more than 100 points is a rare occurrence for the Flashes — the team did not surpass the century mark in any game last season.

“Everybody on the team can score and do different things,” Simmons said. “That’s what makes us so dangerous. The offense will take care of itself. All we have to do is work on the defensive end and we’re a real dangerous team.”

The Flashes will remain at home for their next game as they prepare to host the Youngstown State Penguins at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the M.A.C. Center.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].