Kent State beats the zone, moves on to quarterfinals.

Senior Troy Simons (3) celebrates after scoring during the second half against Eastern Michigan on Mar. 9, 2020. Kent State won 86-76 allowing them to move on to the Quarterfinals.

With his team up six, and 49 seconds to play, Kent State men’s basketball’s Mitch Peterson grabbed a rebound under his own basket.

The senior guard was immediately trapped by two defenders from Eastern Michigan University, but rolled out to his left and threw the ball to fellow senior guard Troy Simons.

Simons sprinted to the other end of the floor and threw down a one handed dunk that caused the M.A.C. Center to explode with cheers.

Coach Rob Senderoff said that rebound “sealed the game.”

Sixth seeded Kent State would use that momentum to seal an 86-76 win over 11 seed EMU, and advance to the Mid-American Conference quarterfinals in Cleveland on Thursday.

When Kent State met Eastern Michigan in the regular season, the Flashes managed only 49 points against EMU’s zone defense, but scoring was not an issue tonight.

Senderoff credited assistant Matt Sligh with making the key adjustment on offense.

“[Sligh] recommended putting ‘Booman’ in the middle of the zone for this game,” Senderoff said. “I thought we were much more effective. It was a great recommendation.”

Booman is senior guard Antonio “Booman” Williams, who worked inside the zone offense of EMU to score 18 points and hand out three assists.

Williams said the Flashes were able to see opportunities while watching film from the first matchup against EMU.

“We learned where we could find our lanes and just get comfortable with where our spots would be,” he said. 

Kent State took full advantage and had a season high 21 assists, tying its 21 against Detroit Mercy a full three months ago.

The Flashes had five players dish out at least three assists; led by sophomore guard Anthony Roberts, who had six assists while also scoring 14 in just his second game back from a groin injury. 

On the receiving end of a number of those assists was junior forward Danny Pippen, who led the team in scoring with 20 and in rebounding with nine.

“People were just finding their open teammates,” Pippen said. “If a guy is open why not pass him the ball. Great ball flow tonight. Teammates finding teammates, trying to do whatever we can do to win.”

EMU had some offensive success of its own, powered almost entirely by a breakout performance by guard Noah Morgan.

Morgan, who averages just over nine points a game and did not start tonight, shot 6-11 from 3 and scored 30 despite the Flashes’ best efforts to guard him.

Kent State held the rest of the EMU offense to 46 points, and though the Flashes only had five steals, they took the ball away from the Eagles on the glass, out rebounding EMU 41-27.

Williams led the Kent State defense with three steals and one crucial block while serving as the “help man.” 

“I was just trying to find a way to disrupt their offense all night,” Williams said. “If it was getting in lanes, if it was contesting at the rim. I was just trying to find any way to be a pest out there tonight.”

Eastern Michigan had the second rated defense in the MAC this season, and Kent State will now play the team that had the highest rated defense.

That team is Ball State University, the four seed in the MAC Tournament, which held Kent State to 54 points in the first matchup between the teams.

Senderoff said his team needs to continue to improve to beat an even tougher defense, and he knows who to turn to for ideas.

“If Sligh has any suggestions I’m gonna listen to him,” Senderoff said.

Contact Owen MacMillan at [email protected].