Flashes tame Huskies in second half

Deanna Stevens

Senior guard Omni Smith sparked a second-half rally that propelled the Kent State men’s basketball team to a 68-49 win over Northern Illinois Saturday.

Kent State led by two at the half, 30-28, but Smith started the second half with five consecutive points, and the Flashes went on a 21-4 run that secured the team’s third consecutive win.

Smith paced the Flashes (12-8, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) with 17 points, 12 of which came in the second half.

The Flashes are now alone in second place in the MAC East.

Director of basketball operations Matt Logie told WHLO-AM 640’s Bill Needle that the Flashes needed to follow the game plan and come out with more energy in the second half.

Kent State took advantage of Northern Illinois’ sloppy play by trapping in the back court, which led to consecutive turnovers early in the second half. The Flashes forced 23 turnovers in all, which they converted into 23 points.

Of those 23 turnovers, 13 of them were steals. Sophomore forward Julian Sullinger led Kent State with five. He added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Northern Illinois senior guard Mike McKinney had 17 points at halftime, but after the half, a number of Kent State defenders held McKinney to only two points. McKinney was the game’s high scorer with 19.

Logie said the Flashes didn’t have a specific plan to defend McKinney.

“What we were able to do in the second half was pressure the ball more in the full court as well as the half court and kind of take them out of some of their sets,” Logie said. “That limited his touches in scoring areas and he didn’t really have as great of an opportunity to be involved offensively.”

McKinney was the only Huskie to score in double figures. Four Kent players reached that mark.

Coming off the Ball State game where he clinched a Flashes victory by hitting two key free throws, freshman guard Rodriguez Sherman went 5-6 from the line on Saturday. He finished with 10 points on the night.

Junior forward Mike Scott also scored in double figures with 11 points and five rebounds.

With junior center Haminn Quaintance out for a second straight game, the 6-foot-3 Sullinger and sophomore center Isaac Knight, who returned from an ankle injury, shared duties at center.

Logie said freshman guard Chris Singletary’s play was big in the win.

“When they went to the zone in the first half, we did a great job of getting the ball to the middle, especially to Chris (Singletary),” Logie said. “He had five assists in the first half and a lot of those where when (senior center) Jamie Hughes would step up to the ball and challenge Chris, he would drop it off to the big guys below. He did a good job of reading that play and taking the shot-blocking aspect out of it.”

Singletary finished the game with seven points and a career-high six assists.

After five of the last seven MAC games on the road, the Flashes will return to the M.A.C. Center with three consecutive games at home. The first of these is 7 p.m., Wednesday against Central Michigan.

Contact basketball reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].