Pippen’s career-high, Williams and Beck’s contribution help Flashes sweep Bowling Green

Freshman Giovanni Santiago [11] makes a layup to give Kent State a 65-50 against Bowling Green on Mar. 3, 2020. Santiago scored six points on 3-for-3 shooting in 23 minutes. Kent State won 83-69. 

Junior forward Danny Pippen tweaked his ankle after a rebound with 15:45 left.

Less than 20 seconds later, he picked up an offensive foul and was subbed out. After an evaluation and time to gain his compussure, Pippen limped to the scorer’s table. 

Less than two minutes later, he dove for a loose ball. He threw an outlet pass to senior guard Troy Simons, who pushed the ball up the floor. Seconds later, Pippen’s 3-pointer rimmed out, then in, giving Kent State a 63-50 lead.

Bowling Green wouldn’t get closer than a nine-point deficit the rest of the game.

Here are five takeaways from Pippen’s career-high 24 points and Kent State’s 83-69 win Tuesday over Bowling Green:

Pippen’s continued success

Pippen grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his game-high 24 points. Kent State improves to 6-1 when Pippen secures a double-double. 

He accomplished that in the first half on Tuesday night. Despite his scoring outburst in the first half, he almost found himself ejected for the second straight game. He picked up a technical foul after screaming in Taylor Mattos’ face following a finish through contact. 

A minute later, he picked up an offensive foul. He raised his arms, as Trey Diggs jostled for position on the block. The play resulted in a review, which cleared Pippen of further punishment. However, he was subbed out for 3:10.

“When he picked up that offensive foul I needed to get him out because he needed to calm down,” Senderoff said. “I needed to calm down.”

Pippen’s passion has driven Kent State to wins more often than not, but his ejection at Ohio last Friday provided a negative outcome for unchecked frustration.

“Every game you worry about that,” Senderoff said. “That’s part of what makes him a good player. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s competitive, but you gotta find a way to foster that competitiveness into not hurting yourself or the team.”

If the Flashes make a deep Mid-American Conference Tournament run, Pippen will be a large part of it. He’s now playing through a couple nagging injuries.

“I think he’s gonna need surgery on one of his knees right after the season,” Senderoff said. “It’s been all year for him. He spends an hour, hour and a half, two hours in the training room everyday. Some days he doesn’t have quite as much pop. He would tell you that. Some days, like tonight, he has a lot of juice in his legs.”

Freshmen playing crucial minutes

Freshman guard Giovanni Santiago played his most meaningful minutes since conference play started.

With the absence of sophomore guard Anthony Roberts [groin] and senior guard CJ Williamson [university policy], Santiago shared time with senior guards Antonio Williams and Troy Simons.

Santiago regularly handled the ball, allowing Williams to act as an off-ball cutter. Williams scored 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He could focus more on scoring in spurts and handling the ball with two other ball handlers on the floor. 

“[Santiago’s] another point guard who can create for someone else or for himself,” Simons said. 

Santiago’s pass-first mentality wasn’t evident in the box score, as he shot 3-for-3, scoring six points in 23 minutes.

Freshman forward Evan Bainbridge was the first player not named Pippen, Williams or junior forward Tervell Beck to score. He dunked the ball with 32 seconds in the half to score his lone points, but his seven minutes helped fill in for Williamson and senior forward Philip Whittington’s foul trouble.

Counteracting Whittington’s foul trouble

Whittington played a season-low 11 minutes because of foul trouble. He picked up his second foul less than two minutes into the game, and struggled to have any success moving forward. He finished 2-for-5 for four points. 

The one positive from his performance was when he grabbed six rebounds in a short period of time.

Beck, senior guard Mitch Peterson and Pippen all filled in for Whittington’s production. Five Kent State players grabbed four or more rebounds, as the Flashes outrebounded Bowling Green 42-37. 

Beck’s emergence

Beck matched his career-high 15 points he set on Nov. 21 against Concord. He also grabbed three offensive rebounds as Kent State scored 15 second chance points. 

He spaced the floor well in stretches, as he made a career-high two 3-pointers. He provided meaningful minutes again. He’s played 15 or more minutes in four straight games. Over that stretch he’s averaging 7.2 points, 57.3 percent shooting and 3.0 offensive rebounds per game.

Kent State’s potential depth

Roberts and Williamson are questionable for Friday’s game at Akron. That being said, the Flashes unlocked several potential lineups after Tuesday’s win. 

Santiago corrected two of his major weaknesses: defense and lack of scoring. He consistently provided pressure to opposing players and didn’t look outmatched like earlier in the season. His ball handling and passing ability allow Kent State to push the ball and score more in transition. 

It’s the fourth time in six games the Flashes have scored 12 fast break points or more. They’re 3-1 in such games. Santiago’s presence will make ball movement and transition opportunities even more frequent.  

“Gio [Santiago] came in and did a great job of controlling the game, controlling his tempo and going at his own pace,” Williams said.

Beck’s energy and offensive rebounding makes the Flashes more equipped for 50/50 plays. He can also play in place of Whittington or Pippen.

Santiago’s passing allows him to play with Williams and Simons or replace one of them for a short stretch. If he can continue to play serviceable defense, he will be a valuable asset in the MAC tournament.

Kent State’s next game is at Akron on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Flashes beat the Zips 68-67 in their last matchup.

“Friday’s just a game right now,” Senderoff said. “I know our fans really want that win, but we beat them at home. I’m worried about Monday.”

Ian Kreider is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].