Flashes overcome stagnant start, end with 13-point victory


The Flashes exit the court after a 72-59 win over Western Carolina in the MACC Thursday night, Nov. 21, 2013. Photo by Tim Dorst.

Tim Dorst

Shots were not going in for the Kent State men’s basketball team early in the first half of Thursday’s game against the Western Carolina Catamounts, as the Flashes began the game making just four of their first 21 attempts.

But when the outside shots refused to fall, Kent State attacked the inside.

The Flashes (4-1) finally pulled away in the second half for a 72-59 victory over the Catamounts at the M.A.C. Center in the second game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, an event for which the Flashes are subregional hosts.

Despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor at game’s end, the Flashes surged offensive toward the end of the first half and into the second half. The team abandoned the 3-point shot for the most part, instead focusing on driving to the rim, getting easy buckets and drawing fouls.

By the final buzzer, 38 of the Flashes’ 72 points came from inside the paint.

Leading the effort down in the post was senior forward Mark Henniger, who finished with a team-high 17 points along with eight rebounds. Henniger shot 4-of-7 from the field while drawing a number of fouls from WCU defenders and making all nine of his free-throw attempts.

Kent State trailed 20-17 in the first half before until junior guard Devareaux Manley scored on back-to-back layups through contact, giving his team a 1-point lead. The Flashes managed to extend their lead at the foul line, and the team went to halftime leading 27-22.

A steal and a driving layup by junior guard Derek Jackson pushed the Flashes’ lead up to 9 points less than a minute into the second half. The Catamounts closed the gap to 3 a few minutes later, but Jackson ended WCU’s quick run with a 3-pointer — one of only two 3-point makes for the Flashes in the game.

The Flashes’ lead grew to double digits about midway through the second half as their shots began to fall at a more consistent clip. Following a jumpshot by junior guard Kris Brewer, Henniger stole a pass attempt and drove the length of the floor before finishing with a contact layup and drawing a foul.

That play put the momentum squarely in Kent State’s favor.

Brewer pitched in 12 points for the Flashes on 3-of-6 shooting, while sophomore guard K.K. Simmons scored 10 points off the bench on 8-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line. The Flashes led by 19 points in the second half and shot 80 percent from the free-throw line.

The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic is a three-day set of college basketball games designed to raise funds for cancer research. Six total games are scheduled to take place in the three days, with the Flashes competing in three of them.

After beginning the weekend with a win, the Flashes now will prepare for two more games at the M.A.C. Center against the University of South Carolina Upstate on Friday and Niagara on Saturday. Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Contact Tim Dorst at [email protected].