Kent State men’s basketball defeats Northern Illinois 90-56

Nick Shook

KentWired Video

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Kent State returned home Wednesday after two conference road losses. Needing a resounding victory to help them get back to their winning ways, The Flashes entered the game with a focus on stepping up team defense. Thirteen steals and six blocks later, Kent State emerged victorious over Northern Illinois, 90-56.

The Flashes continued their recent trend of impressive first-half offensive performances and started Wednesday night’s contest with a 12-0 run in the first 3:41 minutes of the game. Kent State (13-6, 3-3 MAC) led by as many as 18 points before Northern Illinois (2-16, 1-5 MAC) made its second basket of the night and the Flashes never looked back, shooting 64.3 percent and outscoring the Huskies 49-24 in the first half.

Defense created the offensive firepower in the first half for Kent State, as the Flashes forced 14 turnovers and scored 22 points off of turnovers. Kent State junior guard Randal Holt and freshman guard Kris Brewer each recorded two of the Flashes’ eight first-half steals. As a team, Kent State held Northern Illinois to a 42.3 percent and allowed only one three-pointer. Holt finished the night with four steals for the second-straight game.

“After two-straight losses, we needed a win and probably more importantly, we needed to play the way we played,” Kent State’s coach Rob Senderoff said. “Defend, share the ball, get some steals. Do the things that we’re accustomed to doing here.”

Game highlights

  • The victory was Kent State’s 11th-straight win over Northern Illinois
  • Kent State is 10-2 overall when Randal Holt makes at least one 3-pointer (3-7 vs. NIU)
  • The Flashes had 27 assists on 32 field goals, the ninth-most in school history
  • Wednesday was the first time since 2002 that Kent State scored 90-plus points twice in a season during MAC play
  • The Flashes have scored 38-plus points in the first half in seven of their last eight games
  • Kent State made a season-high 11 3-pointers
  • Senior forward Justin Greene moved into eighth place on Kent State’s all-time scoring list with 1,346 career points
  • Greene finished the night with 14 points

The Flashes continued to score in the second half and found their niche from behind the arc. They made 7-of-15 three-pointers in the final period of play. Brewer was responsible for two of the seven shots from deep and had a career-high night, leading the Flashes in scoring with 15 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. Five Flashes scored in double-figures, and Brewer finished the game a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc.

“It’s about time,” Senderoff said. “Because Kris is very talented and very good, I’m glad to see him play the way he played tonight. I hope I see it again on Saturday.”

Senderoff has made it a point to play Brewer with one of the two senior guards, Michael Porrini or Carlton Guyton, also on the floor to take the ball-handling pressure off the freshman. The strategy appears to have worked for Brewer, especially Wednesday.

“He’s a combo guard,” Senderoff said. “I’m not having him focus solely on handling the ball and getting into our offense. We do some different things while he’s in to make it easier for him.”

Kent State’s defensive gameplan was focused around Huskies’ freshman guard Abdel Nader, who entered Wednesday night leading Northern Illinois in scoring with 14 points per game. Nader didn’t come close to reaching his season average and finished the night with zero points, going 0-for-10 from the field.

“[Nader] went 0-for-10,” Porrini said. “My boys got to rolling. We had a good night. We got a win and everybody’s happy.”

The victory is one Kent State hopes can jump start a streak of wins for the Flashes, who are in the middle of the MAC East standings with a conference record of 3-3.

“It meant a lot to us tonight,” Porrini said. “We lost two in a row to Ohio and Akron, losses that we believe shouldn’t have happened the way they did. We stopped playing. We just wanted to come out tonight and our key was defense, and we did a decent job tonight.”

Kent State will travel to Toledo Saturday to face the Rockets. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected].