Men’s basketball undefeated 3-0

Chris Gates

Singletary, Sullinger spearhead impressive win over UNCW

Junior guard Chris Singletary takes a shot from the top of the key last night while playing UNC Wilmington. The Flashes left no room for error, winning 83-64. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

It wasn’t UNC Wilmington’s No. 7 nationally ranked scoring offense that impressed fans at the M.A.C. Center yesterday. It was, however, the Kent State men’s basketball team’s inside presence in a 83-64 win.

Kent State’s offense had dominant performances in the paint by junior guard Chris Singletary and senior forward Julian Sullinger, combining for 41 points. The Flashes as a team totaled 48 points in the paint to the Seahawks’ 22.

“One of the things we noticed was when (UNCW) went to Wake Forest they got outscored in the paint pretty badly,” Kent State coach Geno Ford said. “So that was a big emphasis coming into the game. The two guys that we have that can really score in there are Julian and Chris.”

Sullinger was a perfect 7-7 from the field during the game and scored 18 points, just two shy of his career high. Singletary set a career high for points with 23 and tied his career high in assists with six.

Singletary seemed to find a sweet spot in the second half just inside the foul line in the paint. He said he gravitated to the same spot several times for baskets because UNCW was allowing him to do so.

“They were playing a lot of zone,” Singletary said. ” … My teammates were just getting me the ball in great position to score. I was doing that and getting the ball in the middle and just being aggressive.”

The top story line coming in to the game was the Seahawks’ offense. They averaged 101 points a game in their first three games and had three players averaging over 20 points.

Sophomore forward Dominique Lacy was one of them, averaging 21.3 points per game coming in to yesterday’s match-up, but he failed to make an impact by getting in to early foul trouble. This, Ford said, was a huge help down low.

“No one here got to see just how good that kid is,” Ford said. “He’s fantastic. He’d be a first-team All-MAC player.

“That was probably the biggest thing that changed the game.”

The other game-changer was the Flashes’ defense. Kent State forced 19 turnovers and turned them into 29 points.

Senior guard Jordan Mincy set the defensive tone right from the opening tip. In UNCW’s first three possessions, Mincy recorded two steals and helped force a third turnover. It translated into a 7-0 lead to start the game.

“On our offensive end, they picked the pressure up in the half court,” UNC Wilmington coach Benny Moss said. “I haven’t seen us have that many turnovers just in the half court.

“It was a tale of two halves.”

Kent State advanced the lead to nine with 11:14 to play in the first half, but the Seahawks made a comeback before half-time. They battled back to earn their first lead with 1:48 remaining in the first half, 34-33.

It didn’t last long.

The Flashes got the lead back before half-time and went into the break leading 40-36. Ford said nothing was changed as far as their game plan went. He did, however, ask for more intensity from his players.

“I thought we competed harder,” Ford said. “We didn’t change anything at half-time. We challenged them to play a little bit harder.

“We didn’t try to do any wholesale changes, but I thought we competed a little harder, and I thought we were fortunate they missed some shots.”

The enthusiasm on the floor translated in to a 43-28 second-half scoring advantage for Kent State. Singletary made the most of the momentum with 16 second-half points.

The closest UNCW got to the lead after coming out of the break was five points on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Chad Tomko with 11:27 left. Kent State built their lead to as many as 21 points before the game ended.

The Flashes’ motivation was a little more special against the Seahawks because the team knew it had a chance at making history in the program: setting the record for the longest home winning streak ever at 18 games. The Flashes did just that and now claim the record.

“Coach let us know before the game what we were playing for: the longest home winning streak in Kent State history,” Singletary said. “Knowing the history of the program, it was real be to be here to be a part of that. I think that helped motivate us a little bit, too.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].